Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
The Southern District is of special significance for Russia both economically and geopolitically. It is an area with a high concentration of regions and a high population density. Dozens of different ethnicities live here.
We have discussed this matter at a public meeting just now. We started the discussion with that. There are still lingering inter-ethnic conflicts. Trans-national conflicts have become a tool in the hands of political adventurers. The use of ethnic and confessional differences is raising a wall of mistrust and a rift between people, and creates a breeding ground for new conflicts. And, in the final analysis, threatens the security of the population and the integrity of the Russian state.
It can be said that by now the nagging old problems have been by and large smoothed away through concerted efforts. But we are still far off from resting on our laurels and believing that there are no problems left.
A difficult social situation persists in the district. The average standards of living there are worse than elsewhere in the Russian Federation. Unemployment has reached threatening levels, being twice as high as across the country. In Ingushetia, for example, it is more than 40%, and in North Ossetia, 36%. More than half the population has incomes below the living wage.
I only mentioned these generally familiar problems to stress once again that the region has always called and will always call not only for close attention, but also for a special approach.
The federal authorities have for years lacked a coherent and consistent policy towards the North Caucasus. Many questions have been shelved for decades. We ought to destroy the deep-rooted idea that the Russian Caucasus is a conflict-ridden territory.
I want to highlight particularly the special federal programme for the socio-economic development of the Southern Federal District … We must realise that the district’s problems will never go away if we consider a separate programme for every problem, or for every region of the Federation, if we view each region as an isolated case. Perhaps that was the main weakness of many programmes adopted for individual regions …
…Clearly, the situation needs changing drastically. The Government is elaborating new approaches to preparing special federal programmes. Their number is set to be radically reduced, and they must be made absolutely realistic …
The programme is targeted, above all, at key problems of strategic importance in the region and in Russia, issues concerned with the region’s geo-political situation and the need to safeguard Russia’s national interests. The most urgent ones are to expand transport corridors, build an infrastructure for exporting oil and gas through the North Caucasus, and a number of others. The development of spa resorts is also among them. Their distinctive advantages are not being used to the full. These considerations make the problem a state issue.
We should give serious thought to attracting more Russian and overseas investors to the region. I repeat: we must break the established stereotype about the North Caucasus as an unstable territory.
The implementation of the programme must become the concern not only of federal authorities, but also of regional and local administrations. This is why we must all focus on drafting and implementing these programmes.
We must likewise give thought to creating new jobs. An economic revival, which would inevitably lead to new jobs, is one of the ways of improving the migration situation.
For the time being, our migration policy is poorly tied up with the labour market, employment, and future prospects of the region. If anything, we have not had a migration policy yet in which all these factors are taken into account at the same time. An effective migration policy is possible only in a country with precisely drawn borders controlled by this state. And if we have nothing of the kind in the traditional sense of the word, how can we pursue a migration policy? Everything else is a lot of hot air.
In the Southern District, the migration issue poses one of the biggest challenges. It calls for urgent measures to map out strategic areas of work. The Presidential Envoy must take the most active part in it.
Migration, if competently addressed, can make a good instrument of economic growth. At today’s meeting with intellectuals we spoke of effective ways in which some industrialised countries use their migration flows. But they act purposefully. Just try and move to any other country. We have a different situation, because our migrants or immigrants were residents and citizens of a state that was one whole only recently.
But Russia’s migration policy is very liberal. It grants its citizenship, even dual citizenship, to whoever wants to obtain it. There must, however, be clear priorities in this field. And they must, of course, stipulate certain financial commitments. That is to say, we should invest financial resources where we want to have a socio-economic and political effect.
In our country it is still difficult to tell the difference between legal and illegal migration. We do not have a border in its own right. But we have to think this through in advance, because the border is bound to come. Some progress has already been made. Therefore, now is the time to start formulating these principles. We must know what we want to do and what to achieve.
In 1988, CIS countries adopted an agreement on cooperation in fighting the so-called unlawful migration; more momentum and impetus need to be given to it now. Many people have left the Chechen Republic. To provide accommodation and jobs for them is the district’s top priority.
While on the subject, I want to stress once again: reconstruction efforts in Chechnya must be stepped up. In previous years considerable government funds have been sunk into the work without any effect and we still do not know where they have gone: this negative experience must be a lesson to us. But this does not mean that we should sit idle and do nothing. We must rebuild Chechnya, rebuild its housing, rebuild its economy. If we fail in this, we will fail in our primary function as a state – looking after the people.
Now, about so-called refugees and tent camps. We must create favourable economic conditions, so that people will stop clinging to these camps. We know why they stay there. Even if they have housing in Chechnya, there is no food and no jobs there. And while things continue the way they are, refugees, even though they may have homes – let alone those who have lost them – will sit it out in tents all the same …
…There must be absolute transparency and accountability in financing the reconstruction effort. There must also be control over the stipulated use of the allocated funds. History must not repeat itself, nor must the funds disappear into the thin air.
At today’s meeting we will also touch upon lawmaking. I wish to emphasise that a unified legislative space, effective vertical power structures, and strictly defined briefs for executives at all levels are the bedrock of federative relations. Only this way will lead to order in the country.
There must be a single approach, common requirements and a high sense of responsibility across the board. Prosecutors in the regions that make up the Southern District have already challenged about 300 laws and other legislative acts as running counter to federal laws. That, of course, exemplifies wildcat legislating practices that were rampant not only in this district but also across the country.
Here I would like to reiterate my view which I have expressed elsewhere time and again: I agree with many regional governors that federal laws often fail to take local features into account. Therefore I urge all regional leaders to make more energetic and persistent use of the right to initiate legislation. And I think it would be right for the federal centre to support such initiatives. It would be right if we lobby the State Duma together to pass the so-called omnibus legislative principles in some fields, which could help to better regulate public relations locally, because local lawmakers know ethnic and local features better.
But I wish to call your attention to the fact that so long as any of the laws are in effect and we have not changed them, they must be fully enforced throughout all Russia. This is the point I particularly want to make to persecutors of all levels and the District Deputy Prosecutor-General.
Thank you for your attention.