President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon dear friends, dear ladies and gentlemen!
Allow me to welcome all of you to St Petersburg.
You represent the multinational and multifaceted world of the Russian diaspora, the interests of millions of people who are intrinsically linked to Russia and whose identity is firmly connected with Russia’s history, culture and language.
There are Russians from all continents, from 78 countries here. Your contribution to strengthening ties with Russia is really invaluable. In addition to the effort, time, knowledge and, at times, capital that you contribute to this endeavour, you also put your heart into it, and you do this because of your own, deeply personal choice.
I must say at once that cooperation with the Russian diaspora as well as supporting and defending the rights of Russians living abroad is one of our national priorities and such an approach is dictated by the logic of our country’s development.
The stronger and more successful Russia is the closer our ties with the Russian diaspora are. And, of course, the more influence the voice of Russians abroad will have.
Today we are going to discuss problems that are of particular concern to you. The large majority of them are very familiar. We aspire to help solve them. That is the reason that we have recently made important decisions and adopted important documents in this sphere.
At the beginning of October the government confirmed a three-year programme concerning Russians living abroad. It takes into account today’s challenges, compatriots’ requirements and needs, and allows Russia to support Russians abroad all over the world.
The programme’s basic directions include ensuring compatriots’ rights, organising children’s holidays, caring for veterans, providing educational and tutorial materials, supporting Russian theaters, as well as retraining teachers and media representatives.
In 2006 Russia allocated 323,000,000 rubles towards this goal and 342,000,000 in 2007. This is almost seven times more than in 2000.
Yet these sums do not yet represent huge amounts of money. Nevertheless it is important to spend this money in the most effective way possible. In addition, in the future it would be more logical to allocate funds to concrete, carefully thought-through projects rather than hurrying through events with what is quite a modest budget.
Today I would like to talk in more detail about the issue of the voluntary resettlement of Russians abroad in the Russian Federation. As you know, in June 2006 the corresponding government programme was adopted.
This programme gives the opportunity to those who want to return to Russia to do so. The programme provides assistance during the move and while resettling in Russia, including helping with formalizing one’s legal and social status, the workplace, municipal and pension services, preschool and school education, as well as vocational training.
Already in 2007 the programme’s initial phase will be underway. 4,6 billion rubles have been allocated from the federal budget to this effect.
12 regions of the Russian Federation – Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk, Primorsky Krai, Amur, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Kaluga, Lipetsk, Novosibirsk, Tambov, Tver and Tyumen – are ready to receive immigrants.
The authorities in these regions have already presented specific proposals to the government to be confirmed. They must contain measures on employing immigrants and their family members as well as precise measures of social support.
Outside of Russia this migration programme will be implemented in Russia’s consular sections and by representatives of the Federal Migration Service. But they need help from your organisations. And this is because you are well informed on the people, their needs, and the circumstances in which they live. And we shall support those who make the decision to move to Russia.
We are both well aware that the overwhelming majority of Russians and other ethnic groups of the Russian Federation living abroad are not there because they want to be. We are going to do everything to help those who want to return to their Motherland. And along with this I would like to emphasise – I have already spoken about this in public and I would like to say it once again – that this programme’s goal is not to drag all Russians living abroad back into the territory of the Russian Federation. The programme merely offers the right and the possibility to those who want to do so.
I would like to touch on the theme of labour migration which to a large degree infringes on the interests of our compatriots from CIS countries. We will – I must say this and I think that everyone will understand me – fight against illegal labour immigration. But at the same time we are going to simplify procedures so that those who are living and working on the territory of the Russian Federation can have the opportunity to work and live here legally.
As of 15 January 2007 the procedures for receiving a residence permit and a labour permit in Russia will be simplified. Along with this we are going to increase the responsibility incumbent on employers and remove excessive administrative barriers.
One of the most significant and most delicate themes today involves preserving, developing and teaching Russian language.
Preserving a Russian-speaking territory is one of the priority issues in our cooperation. We are our worried about the fact that a number of countries are dismantling education systems in Russian that previously existed there. In addition, a number of Russian theatres, libraries and cultural centres are having difficulties today, including difficulties with financing and personnel.
We expect the countries of the former Soviet Union to strengthen their national languages, something that is quite natural. And we not only understand this, we are going to support this and promote it in every possible way, including by supporting the development of these languages within the Russian Federation. But at the same time we expect that these countries will support the development of Russian language as our common patrimony since Soviet times, as a natural basis for cooperation, and to develop relations and friendship between the countries of the former Soviet Union.
I would like to inform you that Russia has adopted a federal programme entitled Russian Language. I hope that you will appreciate the possibilities it offers. In particular, it aims to popularize Russian language and support the very widest range of forms in which people study Russian.
We also intend to establish additional measures that will allow Russians living abroad to receive an education in Russian. I am referring to both increasing the state quotas and scholarships for studying in Russian universities as well as supporting educational institutions abroad that use programmes and operate with the support and cooperation of our universities and other educational institutions.
Ensuring the rights and freedoms of Russians abroad represents a serious problem. It is our moral duty to ensure that these rights are protected and we shall try to make sure that this task is always accomplished.
Russia, like other countries, is guided by the universally acknowledged principle of reciprocity in respecting others’ interests. This also applies to ensuring the rights and interests of compatriots.
I must mention the well-known fact of massive statelessness in Latvia and Estonia. In these countries there are about 600,000 so-called stateless people, permanent residents of these countries. We must ensure that these countries’ governments overcome their inertia and out-of-date approaches and operate according to European-wide legal standards. Your active and united participation is extremely important in resolving these difficult problems.
However, the disunity and dissociation that is visible today among the organisations that represent Russians living abroad sometimes prevents you from defending what are, first and foremost, your own rights. And I believe that one of our main tasks should be overcoming disagreements in pursuit for integration.
I know that during the congress you plan to establish a coordination council for Russians living abroad. This is certainly an important decision since the council will help consolidate compatriots’ organisations. And I consider that this idea is both useful and well-founded. We need to quickly implement practical cooperation between this council and the government’s Commission for the Affairs of Russians Living Abroad, the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation, and Russian regional authorities.
I also know that you are raising the issue of representation in the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation. I consider this initiative to be a timely one and think that it can be implemented. We are going to think about how to implement it.
The Russian business community could also play a more active role in contacts with Russians living abroad. Russian companies have sponsored some events within this congress. And this is already a good beginning.
We expect the business community to help Russian-language publications, educational and cultural programmes, and the organisations of compatriots abroad.
I would also like to note the special role that religious faiths play in strengthening cultural and educational ties.
Many Russian regions cooperate fruitfully with compatriots abroad and the most successful among them include Moscow, St Petersburg, Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Such contacts represent a big chance for implementing joint projects.
However, even the most ambitions plans can be reduced to nothing because of indifference, bureaucracy, red tape and irresponsibility. Sometimes it is just one official for ever postponing a certain decision, can destroy the trust and hopes of a large amount of people. I certainly am not addressing these words to you, but rather to the state apparatus, namely the government and the regional authorities.
We cannot forget that dialogue with the compatriots must proceed without interruption. This is a constant and goal-oriented project. And now all levels of authority are obliged to concentrate on the objective and practical aspects of their affairs.
I expect that a substantial discussion here at today’s congress will result in us arriving at useful conclusions and decisions.
Your congress is taking place shortly before a new Russian holiday, National Unity Day, which we celebrate on 4 November.
Certainly this day will not only unite the multinational people of Russia, but also the millions of our compatriots abroad, the whole, so-called Russian world.
We really are united and no borders or barriers will hamper this unity. We have only one common goal and that is to make this unity stronger.
Thank you very much for your attention and I wish your congress successful work.