President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues. Last year we considered a question with an approximately similar agenda. And we decided to return today to the question of the regions' role in the pursuit of the foreign policy of the Russian state.
Tomorrow, at the first meeting of the State Council in 2003, we will discuss this question. As you remember, the Presidium has already worked out a number of materials, and they are integrated by the working groupsinto the decisions which are prepared now.
In addition, the materials prepared for the State Council meeting show that the regions quite actively employ the resources they have in this domain, bearing in mind the relevance of this task in relation to the new geopolitical position of Russia. I think it is clear what I am speaking about. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Russia's regions have become border areas, and this determines the role which, in accordance with existing legislation, the regions play today in carrying out the foreign policy of the country.
In the regions, above all, stress is being laid on the foreign economic sphere, although not just on it alone. There are very many questions linked to migration. We know that in some regions questions of this kind are very acute, and this affects the full range of cooperation with our partner states, in the first place, of course, with our neighbours.
I must say that sometimes – and I agree with some of our colleagues – the resources available to regions in this sphere are insufficient. And I think that we both today and tomorrow should dwell especially on the traditional methods and forms of work of the regions in this field and analyze the problems which you and your colleagues have, above all, problems of a legal, organizational and methodological nature.
And, of course, look at what the federal centre can do, what the Presidential Executive Office, the Government of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can do in order to support the initiatives and ideas of the regions in achieving national objectives in the sphere of international activity.
All of these organizations, all of the bodies of power and administration, all these levels of power, all of us have one common task: to strengthen the positions of Russia in the world, to build up its foreign policy and economic resources.
We must, of course, act here in a consolidated manner, under a common program, understanding each other, working together. And only in this case shall we be able to uphold our national interests effectively and work in the interests of global stability, which is also very important, bearing in mind the role and the increasing significance of the Russian factor in world affairs.