Vladimir Putin: I would like to say a few words about the priorities of the Government’s work with fellow countrymen and the immediate tasks in this area.
It has long been known that one of the reasons why work with Russian communities abroad has not been efficient is the negligence of officials, red tape and lack of coordination at all levels of government. I think those present know it better than I do.
So, the first priority is to eliminate the multiple duplicating agencies which merely disperse the responsibility of government bodies and officials. It is known that “too many cooks spoil the broth”, but we don’t even have one cook. At least we should create a government structure to deal with the whole range of complicated problems that you are to discuss today. And we should consider bringing the agencies responsible for this work into one powerful agency.
The development of a common cultural and information space is a key instrument of the interaction between the state and fellow countrymen abroad. But as it is, that interaction is inadmissibly small-scale. For a variety of reasons, including objective financial reasons, broadcasting in Russian is shrinking. Russian diplomatic missions still sometimes try to bring undue pressure on Russian-speaking periodicals. We have failed to react adequately even to the closure of Russian schools. Their network, unfortunately, is shrinking.
So, I believe that the national programme Electronic Russia should have a section on the development of electronic communications with fellow countrymen, including Internet technologies. Support of the Russian language, which is the basis of our culture, is another area of effort. It involves the publication of textbooks, and the dissemination of classical and modern Russian literature.
Those who move to Russia – and it pains me to say it – are still often treated as unbidden guests. These issues should not be left to be decided at the whim of individual officials. And there we need a clear and unambiguous legal framework. Russia is interested in having Russians return from abroad. Obviously, it is prompted by economic and moral considerations and by the entire range of problems that confront Russia today.
Yet, neither internal Russian nor international aspects of relations with the Russian diasporas have been properly determined. The laws on migration and the status of refugees are very raw. Work to put the migration policy in order is already under way. We will continue to work on this, and we will set only feasible tasks.
We have a good idea of the true scale of illegal migration into Russia. And yet ordinary people whom Russia is interested in having, are forced to wait to be granted Russian citizenship for years in violation of existing laws. Bringing order to that sphere is one of the key tasks. And it is a task that belongs to the domain of human rights protection.
Finally, one more problem. Russia is firmly on course to become integrated into the world community and the world economy. I think our compatriots abroad have everything to be able to help their country to conduct a constructive dialogue with foreign partners. I think it would be a mutually beneficial process. And we should see how best to organise joint work.
The outlook is promising for business partnership as well. Russian businessmen would only gain from closer interaction with their compatriots. And this is a task not only for the Russian Foreign Ministry, but for the whole business community in Russia, for Russian and foreign business associations, considering that all sorts of people work at our firms abroad.
And of course much depends on Russian citizens – their political and non-governmental associations – and on your organisations. Unfortunately, these resources are poorly used at present. I think the task of this Congress is to make the first practical steps. All this can make, I am absolutely sure, a real contribution to the consolidation of the diaspora and strengthening its ties with Russia. And if it happens, the positive effect will be felt in Russia.
We are fully aware that protecting our fellow countrymen from sweeping accusations and helping them to uphold their human rights is a government task. Business and culture cannot be discriminated against only because they are Russian. Russians abroad should have equal rights with those of the local citizens. And we (when I say “we” I mean the government bodies of Russia) should uphold these rights consistently, competently, steadfastly and firmly.
We can only do that effectively if we work closely with you, discussing and agreeing together every step. The modern Russian diaspora is very diverse in its social, ethnic and religious composition. But the tasks we all face are the same. They are noble and they are feasible: to preserve the national culture, to help uphold human rights and protect them against discrimination. I am sure we are up to that task.
But we are no less interested in having Russia benefit from your intellect and knowledge and your skills in tackling the problems that face Russia today and that you probably understand better than many in Russia. So, I would like to repeat that we are interested in much closer cooperation than we have today. What matters in the modern world is not where you live geographically, what matters is your mentality, your aspirations and, as I said, the person’s self-identification. It is no longer of fundamental importance where he spends the best part of the year: in Moscow, Petersburg, London, Paris or Tel-Aviv. What matters is the result of joint activities.