President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon.
The issue we are about to examine today is one of the most serious problems facing our society and our country – fighting corruption. Here today are the people who are responsible for work to fight crime in our country, and that includes fighting corruption.
Corruption is a threat for any country. It corrodes the business environment, makes the state less effective and creates a negative image for a country. But worst of all, corruption undermines citizens’ trust in the state authorities and in their ability to deal with the problems that are their responsibility.
We recently ratified a number of documents, including the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the [Council of Europe] Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, and we have joined the Group of States against Corruption. We have thus taken on a whole series of international obligations in the fight against corruption.
The level of corruption in our country remains very high. According to official statistics, 9,500 cases were brought on corruption charges in 2007 alone. And as we all know very well, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
These kinds of crime are often hidden in character, what lawyers call latent crimes, and this makes them hard to detect, of course, makes it hard to investigate and bring charges against those guilty of corruption.
Particularly worrying for the state are instances of corruption in the law enforcement agencies and the judicial system.
How should we respond? The task is clearly complex and calls for a comprehensive series of measures and not piecemeal solutions. In other words, we need a national plan for fighting corruption. This plan should consist of three main components at the minimum.
First is the purely legal component, the modernization of our anti-corruption laws. The second component is wider-ranging and includes measures to combat and prevent corruption in the economic and social sectors and to create incentives for people to change their behaviour and their attitudes towards corruption. The third component covers legal education and the public’s evaluation of the developments and the situation regarding corruption.
As far as our legal efforts go, we need to carry out intensive modernisation of our laws. As you know, this requires a comprehensive approach and coordination between the different sectors. We need to close the loopholes and clear up any remaining ambiguity in our laws in this area. We have a draft law on fighting corruption. There are still a number of questions regarding this draft law, and we will therefore have plenty to discuss during our work today.
Regarding the second component of the anti-corruption plan, we need to look at how to eliminate the conditions that give rise to corruption in the first place. This will be the most difficult part of our work: making all of the procedures related to state contracts, tenders and administrative regulations transparent, and creating a more favourable business climate in general.
As part of the series of anti-raider measures we need to come up with a modern system for evaluating the work of the law enforcement agencies and the regions in this area.
In the area of civil service we need to look at reinforcing procedures for pre-court appeals and checks into the legality of civil servants’ decisions.
A separate issue is that of improving our justice system and strengthening the authority and independence of our courts. Tomorrow we will hold a special meeting on this subject, but it is clear that the anti-corruption measures we decide to implement and, most important of all, their effectiveness, depend on having independent courts.
There are a number of other issues that are rather hard to tackle but that we must also definitively resolve. They include controls on the assets and property of civil servants and judges, conflicts of interest, and a new code of ethics for civil servants. These are all matters we need to analyse.
Finally, regarding the anti-corruption plan’s third component, what we are talking about here is the atmosphere in society in general. We need to introduce an anti-corruption code of behaviour. We will not achieve anything without this. In the developed countries, the countries with a high level of legal culture, people don’t take bribes not only because they are afraid to do so but also because it would not be in their benefit and would totally destroy their career. This is perhaps the strongest incentive of all.
We need to work on legal education. The law enforcement agencies, the mass media, and public organisations should all have the chance to have their say and get involved in this area.
In short, we can wait no longer. Corruption has become a systemic problem and we therefore need a systemic response to deal with it.
Following our meeting today, I will sign a decree setting out all the necessary instructions.