Vladimir Putin: I am happy to see you in the congress hall of the State Duma. I would like to congratulate you once again on your victory in a tough, difficult campaign. The election of the State Duma, which has started working, is a positive sign and a firm step towards creating a democratic society in Russia. I sincerely and wholeheartedly congratulate you, myself and all Russians on this occasion.
We are beginning a new parliamentary session today. It begins in a crucial year, the year 2000, and I hope that this State Duma will advance to a fundamentally new stage in the history of Russian parliament, marked by democratic principles, professionalism and political balance.
You are not beginning from scratch, for there is a basis you can rely on. I am referring to the work of the two previous parliaments and Russian traditions rooted in the parliamentary experience of pre-revolutionary Russia.
I have said before that the last six months of the past year can be viewed as an example of efficient interaction between the executive and legislative branches of power. That form of cooperation has yielded positive results for the country. The people were satisfied with it, and with our joint businesslike approach, as it showed that Russian authorities can be consolidated and united. Therefore, the new State Duma can expect to maintain constructive and open cooperation with the federal government.
It is my duty as acting president to provide all-round assistance to your work, and I am prepared to do it.
I want to say again that we have never divided the deputies’ corps into “them” and “us”. To be able to work well, we need to gain as broad a support in the State Duma as possible; this is not a political, but a purely pragmatic stance.
Parliament is the frontline of lawmaking, where decisions of crucial importance for the country are formalised. Many of them are directly connected with a strategy of Russia’s long-term development, which is being formulated now. However, we will never attain practical results in any of our noble goals without lawmaking and legislative backing, without parliamentary support. So, although Yegor Ligachev [who opened the first meeting of the 3rd State Duma] said he was a young parliamentarian, I think he is inexperienced only with regard to procedure. In fact, the experience of the current chairman is enough, and I support his appeal to the deputies to join in the work to formulate an immediate development strategy for Russia, at least for the next ten years.
The beginning of the work of the new parliament has coincided with the shortest presidential election campaign. Russia will have a new president by mid-April at the latest. All of us know how important these months will be for the authorities, and therefore our common goal is to ensure a smooth and uninterrupted work of the state mechanism. At the same time, we should begin a very ambitious project: to lay the foundations for a legislation of a new century, a politically streamlined, economically substantiated and legally precise legislation.
I also hope that the lower house of parliament will not procrastinate at the organisational stage – I believe that a good beginning has been laid in this sphere – but will promptly discuss and pass priority federal laws. Despite the election campaign, the process of lawmaking must not be interrupted. So, I ask you not to linger when discussing bills. Eight of 15 federal constitutional laws have not been passed yet, and without them we will be unable to apply many of the basic clauses of the Constitution. The codes regulating crucial spheres of public relations – the land, labour, criminal and civil procedures codes – have not been passed either. A group of other enactments directly bearing on civil rights and freedoms, such as the law on alternative civilian service, should be passed without delay.
I am asking you not to postpone discussions of social and economic projects submitted by the government, including the laws on investment funds, on the procedure for determining the size of social and other payments, and many other laws.
Not only the previous State Duma is responsible for failure to pass these and other important laws. I must say – we have discussed the issue quite openly at a meeting with the leaders of this Duma’s parliamentary parties – that the government was very ineffective in exercising its legislative initiative during the term of the previous Duma. This has been demonstrated by the small number of bills submitted by the cabinet as compared with the total number of bills debated in parliament, as well as the choice of subjects for consideration and the quality of bills, which was often inadequate. This is why the president vetoed those bills.
I know very well that the legislative process should not be overburdened. This is why it is so important to choose priorities and to jointly address the vital goals of the state and society. I believe that all of us, including the government and the State Duma, would equally benefit from coordinating their lawmaking plans and jointly choosing priority spheres of their lawmaking efforts. We should not squander our time, and we should also avoid all kinds of populist and high-sounding bills that are not backed by sufficient funds or mechanisms for implementing decisions. The abundance of such laws, which cannot be implemented today or tomorrow, does not benefit our legal system; it only complicates it and, in general, has a detrimental effect on society because it undermines the authority of the government and public trust in it.
Many new politicians have come to the State Duma; they make up nearly two-thirds of the house. The number of independent deputies, many of them young people from the regions, has also increased. The public does not know them yet, and this is a very good sign for society, a sign of renewal. But this also means that new deputies will have to rapidly learn the very complicated and very important lawmaking profession. They will also have to tackle projects that had been started by deputies in the previous Duma. I hope they will quickly become involved in the lawmaking work and wish them success as well as fruitful cooperation with the deputies who have lawmaking experience.
In conclusion, I would like to remind you that in March we will mark ten years of the new Russian parliament. We elected the Congress of People’s Deputies, the forerunner of the new Russia’s first parliament, in 1990. At that time, ideological differences divided deputies into two irreconcilable camps, which had dramatic consequences for the country. We must not forget that deputies represent the people, are elected by the people, and are responsible to them. The time has come to return to the beginning, which is aptly described by the phrase “people’s deputy.”
Deputies in this audience represent different parties and movements, and each of them strongly believes that they know better what their country and people need. But you must admit that it is impossible to move ahead while relying only on one’s own views and beliefs. I believe that we will never succeed unless we work as a team, without fighting with each other, often over self-evident and trifling issues.
Although some people may disagree, the new State Duma is a political cross section of society, an objective demonstration of social moods and priorities. This is an objective fact that cannot be cancelled by the numerous problems we encountered during the election campaign. We understand and accept public choice; the executive branch is prepared to fruitfully cooperate with the State Duma.
Russia has entered a new stage in its development. We will have to accomplish many things together, and so the policy of infighting, the war of ambitions must stop. A policy of cooperation and mutual restraint is the only possible common path towards the interaction of the branches of state power in modern Russia.
I congratulate you once again on beginning your work in the 3rd State Duma. I wish you lawmaking success to the benefit of the country, in the interests of all Russians.
Congratulations, and thank you.