Subjects discussed at the meeting included the State Duma’s current legislative work and preparations for elections at various levels in the regions in September.
Before the start of the meeting, the President and the parliamentary party leaders looked over the Olympic facilities under construction in Sochi.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with leaders of parliamentary parties
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon colleagues. We are continuing our tradition of regular meetings with the leaders of the parties represented in the State Duma.
Last time we met was during preparations for the [Annual Presidential] Address to the Federal Assembly. We discussed a number of top priority laws on that occasion. I want to thank all of the parliamentary parties for taking an active part in examining what were then still draft laws and making proposals and amendments.
I particularly note the consolidated support for the anti-corruption draft laws. They include the law on expense controls that has already come into force now. On July 1, 2013 we will see the first results of the law’s application and will be able to analyse how it is working. If required, we will make the necessary adjustments. Recent laws in this area also include the ban on having bank accounts in foreign banks or holding foreign companies’ securities. This law, as you know, has been signed now.
These laws are part of the work to put into place what will be for the public a more stringent and transparent new set of political and legal conditions for state officials at all levels and also for State Duma deputies and members of the Council of Federation. Some of them have already made the voluntary choice to step down before these measures come into legal effect.
I think this is completely normal and is the right and honest choice. It is a case of choosing what is closer to your heart. If someone wants to be in business and does not want to be subject to any restrictions on foreign bank accounts and foreign securities, this is the choice to make. This is perfectly normal and I think it is a choice that deserves respect.
Let me mention another important draft law – the law on the Accounts Chamber, which expands the auditors’ powers. One important point here is that the consolidated proposals from the parliamentary parties will be taken into account by the State Duma’s council in selecting the Accounts Chamber’s personnel. Thus, the opinion of all parties represented in the State Duma will be heard. I expect you to make proposals regarding personnel.
I want to thank you for supporting the draft law on elections of State Duma deputies. This is the draft law that introduces a mixed electoral system. These were in fact your proposals, which were then drafted into legal form.
I hope that the introduction of single-mandate districts will help to make government and its representatives more accountable to their own voters, will strengthen government at the local level, and bring interesting new people and leaders into politics. I know that the draft law is due for its second reading soon and the political parties have proposals of substance to make. Let’s discuss these proposals today.
Work is also nearing completion on the draft law that increases the regions’ and the public’s role in forming the Civic Chamber. It is important that internet voting has been taken into account in the draft law. This is a rapidly developing, effective and much-needed channel of communication with the public. We have had positive results with its use. The Council for Human Rights is using it now through the Russian Public Initiative portal, which is already up and running.
Let me say a few words about the upcoming regional elections. They will take place under new procedures seeing as the regions now have the right to choose themselves what electoral system they will use for electing the regional heads. I expect (with good reason) that most regions will choose the current system of direct vote by citizens.
But at the same time, I think that we should respect regional particularities, especially in the ethnic-based republics, where several titular ethnic groups are represented and live together. We are to take their specific situations into consideration. If regions make use of these possibilities, the regional heads chosen through these procedures will have all the same rights and responsibilities of course, and we – myself included — will treat them as equal in every way in their office as heads of their regions.
The single voting day will also be the first opportunity to test the new procedures for forming the Council of Federation. Under the new system, future members of the upper house of parliament delegated by the regional executive authorities will all have to go through the procedure of elections in the teams of candidates running for regional governor.
I hope that our work together will create the conditions for getting our people more actively involved in the country’s political life, develop a responsible administrative team focused on the country’s good and working above all for Russia’s people and society, and will help parties, including new parties, to promote their candidates into senior office in the regions and then at the federal level.
We had a meeting specifically devoted to the situation in Afghanistan and discussed it in detail at the Security Council meeting here. We are in the process of drafting measures in this area. You are certainly right of course that there are some quite serious things we need to look at. We are coordinating a work plan at the moment, in preparation for the withdrawal of international coalition forces in 2014.
The situation will undoubtedly be complicated by the fact that elections are scheduled to be held there at this same time. We all know that things heat up in any country during election campaigns, and in Afghanistan they will be having the troops withdraw as well. The situation there really is very complex. It is already a difficult situation and is likely to become even more so. It’s true that we need to be ready for this.
As for our international relations, it is indeed true that we have very good relations with our Vietnamese friends. I met with the Vietnamese Prime Minister today. Vietnam is a country of almost 90 million people and is growing fast. Of course we will maintain and develop our ties with Vietnam, all the more so as we already have a solid foundation and have plenty of areas to work on. It is pleasing to see that we have diversified ties, including in the aviation, machine-building, energy, and military-technical cooperation sectors. You don’t need to worry on this count. We have made our choice and will work with the Vietnamese.
I also agree with you on the issue of a new industrialisation. This is part of our general plans. What happened in the developed market economies when the big companies all began relocating the manufacturing side of their businesses to countries where it seemed more profitable, thinking it would be enough for them to leave all the research and development side of things back home? It turned out that this was not enough, not enough for keeping jobs. Many countries now face problems of this sort and are making efforts to try to get manufacturing back to their own soil, but on a new, modern and high-tech basis of course.
This is only natural. What we need is a policy that enables us not just to keep the jobs we have but also to create new ones, high-tech jobs. I think that we have every chance of succeeding in creating 25 million new jobs. As I have already said, this does not mean that all these jobs need to be created from scratch. It is also entirely possible to reformat existing jobs. True, these are ambitious goals. Ten-fifteen million new jobs is already a lot, and 25 million is certainly a huge figure, but this is a realistic objective.
Regarding the G7 finance ministers’ meeting, Germany’s position on the economy does not by any means have the support of all of our partners in the Eurozone, but let me point out that theirs is a less monetarist position. One can see shades of liquidity injection in British policy, and in US policy, where the refinancing rates are close to zero, but I think we would be better off not going too deep into all this. Let them sort it out. I am simply pointing out that Germany probably has the soundest and least crisis-affected economy.
The main thing is keep to the macroeconomic rules and indicators. Germany is not getting itself into debt. It is setting limits where possible, limiting unproductive and ineffective spending. It is focusing on work, not on monetarism, which at the moment consists exclusively of pumping up the money supply, unbridled borrowing, and unjustified credit obligations that the budget takes on in one form or another.
As I said, I don’t think we should go too deep into our Eurozone partners’ problems. We should understand, analyse, and draw conclusions about what is going on of course, but I would not like to give any public assessments. Whatever the case, we all have to give these issues our consideration. I say this because we are again moving into the active phase of preparing the budget, and so these are all issues that we need to think about.
Let me come back to the question of national security. We are spending huge sums of money on ensuring our security. By ‘we’, I mean the Federal Assembly too, as it is the Federal Assembly that makes decisions on the budget parameters in different sectors. The priority now is to get the latest model arms, and there are still quite a few issues to sort out here, issues that we are discussing very actively right now. You might have noticed that over the last week I have had meetings every day with the heads of the Defence Ministry, General Staff, and the commanders of the different branches of the armed forces. Every day, we have been sitting here and discussing all of these issues. There are still a lot of problems and questions in this area, but they are all things that can be resolved.
We have the capability and resources to ensure our national security. We just need to work effectively and not waste time or money. Of course we will be in contact with the Federal Assembly on all financing issues and on the different areas of our work. We will hold closed-door meetings with you on these matters, and open meetings too, meetings with the public.