Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues!
First of all, I want to congratulate you on the beginning of the State Council’s work. It is doubtless an important event in the country’s political life.
The past six months were a difficult but also a dynamic period for us. Together we have achieved a good deal, made advances on federative relations, and revised the principles on which the Federation Council is based. Your proposals and what only recently was just a general idea have been fleshed out into a new mechanism. New for us, but well-known from past experience. As a political body the State Council is, in my opinion, an absolute necessity and of utmost importance both for the centre and regions of the Federation.
To set up the State Council and make it work required our understanding of the need for such a step. It required a common political will. Of course, we did not arrive at the decision at once. We openly, frankly and in detail discussed the role of this fundamentally new body in Russia’s political setup.
Today’s agenda has been drawn up by the State Council’s Presidium, which, as you know, will have a rotating membership. Practically all the proposed items are important and interesting. But the question today that is most often raised and best prepared is that of a strategy for the country’s social and economic development, with an emphasis on the regional aspect. I sincerely hope that our discussion will be interesting, informative and useful.
Before I go over to the agenda, allow me to make a few remarks.
Here, in the State Council, our task is to formulate a consolidated position on key aspects of the country’s development. Of course, we cannot and must not skip current issues. That would be impossible. But it appears to me that the State Council should act, above all, as a political-strategy think tank. This is what sets it apart from other administrative and advisory bodies. The State Council can set the course for the country to follow but must not double as a Parliament or Government. We have our work cut out for us: we need to adopt the required approaches and learn to work in this manner, learn to look at problems through the prism of national interest. It may sometimes do good to pause and forget for a moment routine matters and petty administrative details. The same goes for purely regional or purely federal problems. There are bigger things to tackle if the country is to forge ahead and do it effectively.
To be sure, strategic policy is the responsibility of the federal administration. The Government, too, is doing a lot in this respect. But here, within the State Council, we will be able not only to coordinate our positions but also obtain a more detailed picture of the regional landscape, and mesh the Federation’s interests with those of individual regions.
Surely you have your own experience and your own approaches to political matters and to shaping economic programmes for your regions. It must be frankly said that regional leaders are more attuned to the needs and requirements of the local population, they bear the burden of responsibility imposed on them by their voters, and know how Moscow decisions translate for the rank-and-file. But in order to put flesh on the bones of seminal ideas, we must view strategies as nationwide directives. Our common goal is to guarantee the legal, economic and political unity of the country with due consideration for local specifics.
A major segment of our work involves strengthening the vertical power structures, something we have discussed many times and something that has been debated so actively and heatedly in society. It implies both control from the federal centre and effective feedback. I am sure the State Council can be an excellent tool for such an interdependent relationship.
And one more remark. Under the Constitution, the executive branch at the centre and in the provinces is one whole. We have many jointly administered facilities. The President of Tatarstan will speak about that today. He is head of one of the groups we established in the Presidium. Nor can we forget the provisions of Article 77 of Russia’s Constitution, which highlights the unity of the Russian Federation’s executive branch. We believe it is important not only to make decisions, but also to implement them. We were guided by this consideration when we ultimately decided on this make-up of the State Council.
Our State Council has roots that go far back in history. In Russia, it was power-wielding bodies that almost always made major strategic decisions. No one, of course, can offer ready-made solutions or generally accepted recipes for successful work. It is a painstaking effort, complex and responsible.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Khabarovsk Regional Governor Vladimir Ishayev are going to give their reports today. But one report or one meeting is not, of course, enough to produce a strategy for national development. That consists of programmes and documents drawn up by the Government, the Federal Assembly, local bodies of authority, and actions by Presidential Envoys to the Federal Districts.
Lastly, I would like to call your attention to the fact that a strategy does not boil down to economic matters alone, like those to be dealt with in today’s reports. We need strategies in the social, educational and scientific fields, in health services, and on national security. And for international relations, of course. We must know the place Russia occupies in the world. Special groups and commissions will discuss these aspects of our work. Please find the necessary time and do not delegate your powers and functions to your assistants and experts, who have enough difficult and important duties as it is. We must take political responsibility for decision-making.
I thank you for your time and attention and suggest we begin work.