President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues.
I asked you to come here to the Kremlin today so that we could discuss issues regarding the formation of the Public Council of the Russian Federation. I hope that we will be able to establish what for Russia will be a completely new type of institution for coordinating public interests, a thoroughly democratic institution that will work together with other democratic organisations in our country. The Public Council’s mission will be to approve new forms of interaction between the authorities and civil society. This follows from the council’s powers to carry out public expert studies, exercise public control and make recommendations to the state authorities.
At the same time, the work of the Public Council should have a real impact on strengthening civil society in general. We very much hope that this will be the case. The council should become a forum for cooperation and coordination between the many different public organisations and ultimately, should help to activate their work. In this respect I place particular importance on these consultations with all of you who have come here today, with the representatives of the presidential councils. Allow me to begin our discussion by emphasising what I see as a few especially important points.
Above all, the Public Council should help create effective instruments for ensuring interaction between the public and the state – instruments that will also give us new opportunities. One such new instrument is the creation of effective means for public influence on the administrative system and also effective means of involving citizens in implementing state policy.
I am sure that this will all serve as an incentive for the state power and local government system in general to improve the results of their work.
Second, it is clear that the Public Council’s effectiveness as an institution will depend a lot on its composition. According to the law on the council, its members will decide independently the working procedures and the ethical and other principles governing their activities. In this respect I consider the confirmation of the first 42 members of the council to be a task of paramount importance.
The Presidential Executive Office has received more than 300 proposals on possible candidates from citizens and public organisations. Before making a decision however, I wanted to consult with you on the approach to take in selecting these candidates.
It is clear that the council’s members should be people who have broad public support, personal authority and influence in society and in their professional circles. This requirement conforms to the letter and spirit of the law on the Public Council.
Furthermore, candidates should be prepared for work at expert level and should be as free as possible of political bias. But at the same time, the pool of candidates should not be restricted only to people who are already well known and who already work in this or that organisation. We should not restrict ourselves to people who are already involved in working productively within the state bodies, because they already have enough work and enough responsibility to deal with as it is.
Finally, the Public Council is a distinct kind of institution and cannot simply copy other administrative forms of organisation. It should not be like some kind of ministry for working with civil society, but should be one of the fundamental structures within civil society itself.
In creating the Public Council we are building on the huge experience of work accumulated by our society, by the institutions of Russian civil society, over the last decade. It is important that the council be a place where the most significant public initiatives can find effective new instruments for their promotion and support.
I think we could also look at a few other issues today, including coordination of the council’s work with existing public and consultative organisations, in particular with the existing presidential councils.
I think a matter worthy of separate discussion is the council’s interaction with the media, above all regarding public involvement in ensuring guarantees for freedom of speech and, of course, citizens’ rights to freely disseminate and receive information.
I call on you to make this an active dialogue. Thank you for coming here today to the Kremlin to take part in this discussion.