Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Our agenda today includes an important question which should be of interest both to professionals and the general public. That is strategic issues of the state border policy, which is of vital importance to national interests.
We have talked at length about the need to modernise our border. Regrettably, we have not done much on a state level to achieve this or to make the Russian border a 100% guarantee of national security and economic interests. On the other hand, the border must show Russia to be a democracy open to the world, a country that does not impede economic contacts, and promotes public contacts.
As I see it, we need to focus on the following priorities.
First. The coordination of federal ministries’ and other central offices’ border-related work leaves much to be desired. We all know it. How many offices are presently involved in frontier work? I don’t think it’s easy to count them all. Each pursues its own parochial interests and proceeds from uncoordinated instructions and bylaws.
Second. We must finish international legal formalisation of our borders. Unfortunately, we have not done that yet. This means we have not yet guaranteed our national interests in crucial fields, for instance, relations with other CIS countries, which is a new and essential field. We have not yet sealed the guarantees of our national interests in the Arctic and certain other parts of the world bordering on Russian territory.
Third is the regional aspect of the border policy. Local authorities, I am sure, realise its importance well. I would like to call the attention of Presidential Envoys to Federal Districts to the matter. We must focus on the development of regions and territories adjacent to the border, of which we now have very many. Territories that used to be in the middle of the country have become border regions, and the change has left its imprint on a range of local issues and administration.
Fourth. Illegal immigration has become a major challenge to national security. As we deal with the problem, we must first see what we are to regard as legal immigration and what as illegal. Be all that as it may, nationals of 33 countries – some of them not neighbouring on Russia – have been found among foreigners illegally crossing our border. Border guards face a wealth of legal and other problems. The term “illegal immigration” itself is rather conventional, as I have said here. Many immigrants enter Russia with legal documents which have been obtained on false grounds – very often as tourists.
Last but not least comes all-round border equipment. I don’t mean we are to build an echelon engineering system as what we had in the Soviet years. No one intends to put up a new Iron Curtain – but we must use modern technology to protect our interests along the border. Those are the questions I propose to discuss today.