President Vladimir Putin:
Good afternoon, dear colleagues,
Our meeting today is taking place just a few days before a significant date – the tenth anniversary of the Russian Constitution.
There is no saying just how important this document is for our country, for its political and legal development and for increasing its international authority. It lays the foundation for building a market economy, for developing democracy, for developing the country in general and preserving its territorial integrity.
Here, at the Council of Lawmakers, I would particularly like to emphasise the part the Constitution plays in strengthening the foundations of Russian federalism. Strictly speaking, it was only with the approval of this Constitution that Russia really became a federal state, a state that guarantees equality of rights for all its regions and, no less importantly, takes into account and preserves our historical traditions of regional diversity.
What’s more, it has given all the Russian regions the right to pass their own laws and has established a federal state with two levels of legislation – federal and regional. Furthermore, its provisions give legislators a stable and clear guideline to follow in their work.
I must say that in 1993, the regions were granted powers of the greatest responsibility in the form of freedom to legislate within the scope of competence set out by the Constitution. And the regions did not hesitate to make full use of these rights and opportunities. Sometimes, as we have discussed on past occasions, they even went too far. But in practice it emerged that drafting and passing competent and quality legislation is not such a simple affair at all, especially in situations when political ambitions often had the upper hand over legal norms.
This resulted in many regions passing laws that violated the Constitution’s provisions and contradicted federal laws. It was not entirely clear which precise areas fall within the regions’ legislative competence, especially within the framework of article 72 of the Constitution, and this only further complicated the situation. Many of these problems have still not been resolved to this day.
The legislative bodies at all levels should gradually come to reflect the political party system in the country more in their work. This should do a lot to help reinforce the unity of the state and also to help create an effective and coherent system of political parties that voters can understand and that are able to take practical action towards resolving voters’ most pressing problems. This should also lead to greater involvement of regional lawmakers in the federal legislative process because if regional parliaments are based on party lists, then it will be easier for them to use this party system to promote their ideas in the State Duma.
I realise that this process of building up a more party-based foundation for parliamentary work is a complex affair that carries with it great responsibility. This is especially true in situations where there has never been any past experience of this practice. Here, your Council of Lawmakers can help in this work and can contribute by coming up with the required methodological recommendations. This work is very important, above all because the parties that have entered the parliament now must make good on their commitments and answer to their voters.
I actively supported the initiative to create the Council of Lawmakers because I also see this body as a tool that can be used to have a positive impact on the quality of legislation and on bringing laws closer to the real needs of our country’s people.