Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon dear ladies and gentlemen!
It is a great honour and pleasure for me to speak in front of such a wide and varied audience today, to welcome you all, and to thank you for coming to Moscow.
More than 40 Russian NGOs initiated the project of Civil G8 2006. It includes NGOs from all the continents. A round table of NGO experts took place, there was another forum in March and meetings with Sherpas… I just heard complimentary words addressed to the Russian Sherpa. I know that he has also tried to set up direct channels of communication, to hear — and not only to hear but to listen to — the ideas that you expressed during these meetings. And just now I looked at the projects of your final documents and I must say that to a large degree the ideas they contain are reflected in the final documents that are now being prepared for the leaders of the G8 summit that will take place in St Petersburg. And I think that to a great extent this is a result of the teamwork we have undertaken together over the past few months.
As I said before, many of your ideas are reflected in the final documents. In particular the NGO proposal to create an Association to Establish Systematic Mechanisms, Consultations and Supervision for Implementing the Summit’s Decisions requires separate attention. I am confident that your experience and knowledge of life’s situations, the way you work with people – you work directly with people – will be reflected in concrete recommendations and will able to make a significant contribution to the present and following G8 summits. I would like to say at once and quite frankly that some of your recommendations and documents that I have seen will cause disagreements within the G8. Of course this is the case. I am not sure that all those present here today agree one hundred percent on, shall we say, stopping the development of nuclear energy. And I saw this recommendation within your documents.
I agree with the fact that we should, for example, work at developing alternative energy sources, above all renewable energy sources, but probably the sequence of our actions should be a bit different. I am already starting to discuss the issues and I want to stop doing so. But it seems to me that at first of all we must develop an alternative for humanity, that first we must propose an alternative and then we can stop developing nuclear energy. Although other opinions certainly are possible.
From The Hall (group holding a poster: “No Nuclear Energy!”): “No Nuclear Energy!”.
Ella Pamfilova (talking to the demonstrators): We are very glad to see you here today. But please sit down and continue participating. If you want, you can stand up for what will be about two hours.
Vladimir Putin: Let people go about their own business. We are not going to get in their way. They came here to make themselves known and we should give them that opportunity.
Civil society in Russia differs from civil society in the so-called traditional democracies. And what I am going to say refers to this. Institutions of civil society were established only a short time ago. But as we understand it, the state’s role consists in creating all the necessary conditions for their development and, first and foremost, the necessary legislative conditions. I will go into a bit more detail on this issue, especially with regards to Russia — I am not sure if this topic has already been mentioned or not — I am referring to our law on non-governmental organisations. We have all heard the criticisms in this respect.
What would I like to say? You have probably heard many of our arguments but I will repeat some of them because I am not sure that everyone knows the situation in detail.
After the law was brought before the State Duma and after it was criticized for the first time what did I, your obedient servant, do? I sent the Justice Minister of the Russian Federation to Strasbourg where he discussed the document in detail with his European colleagues. Within the Council of Europe in Strasbourg an expert group with specialists from two departments (justice and human rights) and international experts was created. This group went into substantial detail and in the end they made a written proposal for making amendments to our bill. I want to emphasize that these proposals were made in writing. After this I relayed these proposals in their entirety to the Russian parliament as amendments on behalf of the President of the Russian Federation. And the Parliament of the Russian Federation and the State Duma considered all of these amendments.
I simply draw your attention to how work on this law proceeded. And I also concede that this document was not perfect. That is possible. But this does not exclude the fact that Russian NGOs, or any public associations, could draw attention to certain aspects and make all the necessary remarks and proposals during the legislative process. And, let me assure you, we will consider all these remarks and proposals.
What did I want to say in conclusion? When people refer to the G8, they are first of all referring to discussions or, if not solutions, than the search for solutions to problems on the international agenda, crucial problems for the development of humanity. And as heads of countries, we are very pleased when we hear people refer to the leaders of G8 countries. Whether we are leaders or not is a different question, but one thing that is certain is that we are the heads of state and government and, like our colleagues in other countries, we act based on our right to do so, a right that is received in a democratic process, either during an election campaign in parliament or through a direct vote for the head of state, such as in the Russian Federation. But a significant portion of the citizens of our countries do not work in administrative structures and believe that official governmental structures have too much bureaucracy to understand and empathize with the needs of ordinary people, and to register the acuteness of certain problems that face humanity. And such people work, first and foremost, in public and non-governmental organisations.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that my colleague and I — and I am referring to both the British Prime Minister, the President of France and my other colleagues in G8 member countries — have tried before and are now trying to enter into a dialogue with non-governmental organisations, to hear your voices and your opinions. And if in past years the leaders of non-governmental organisations invited to the forum were not representative enough, then today, as you see, we have invited a wide range of representatives to this forum.
I want to assure you that what you say will be transmitted to the leaders of G8 countries and we will do more than just pay close attention to your proposals, we will analyse your proposals in the most possible detail and we will take them into account when making our final decisions.
Thank you very much for your attention.