Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. In this meeting, apart from discussing current issues, we are to review the results of our joint work during the past year. Because the decision to form federal districts was taken a year ago and it was followed by the appointment of the Presidential Envoys to the Federal Districts.
I would like to say right from the beginning that since then, in my opinion, all the plenipotentiary representatives of the President have set a good working pace. At the same time, I would like to discuss, in a conceptual way, the whole range of issues that you had to deal with and will have to deal with in the near future; to discuss and analyse the effectiveness and substance of our joint activities. What conclusions can be drawn from what we have managed to accomplish during the past period? I think the first conclusion is that the decision to form federal districts and establish the institution of plenipotentiary representatives was well-grounded and sound from the organisational and managerial points of view. To some extent it made the administration of Russia stronger and more effective.
Secondly, through the common efforts of the representatives and the regional heads and the federal leaders the processes of disintegration in the country have been halted. The building of the federal structure has been put on track towards unification, and this is extremely important. In my opinion, it is the most important positive result. Your personal contribution has been significant and the introduction of the very institution of plenipotentiary representatives has been in many ways critical.
Third. A year ago many were convinced that there would be a confrontation between plenipotentiary representatives and Governors. Admittedly, not everything is smooth yet in this sphere. But today one can firmly say that those worst-case scenarios have not materialised. The interaction between plenipotentiary representatives and Governors, the heads of regions, is largely constructive.
We determined from the very beginning that the plenipotentiary representatives must not intrude upon the powers of the regional leaders. I want to emphasise it. Your business is above all to help the regions and federal authorities to solve the issues that are within the competence of the federal bodies of power. The activities of the plenipotentiary representatives have brought the federal authorities closer to the regions, and that too is an important result. It is a fact. On the other hand, the regional leaders have got a stable channel of communication with the country’s leadership. After all, 89 people are not always able to meet the President or the Prime Minister for purely technical reasons, much as we would like it to happen. The channel of communication with the federal centre, which you provide for the regional leaders, is working quite efficiently. In any case I am repeating it for those who feel like availing themselves of it.
On the whole, the Presidential Envoys and the regional leaders have forged businesslike relations. And there are some examples in practical work. The work to harmonise regional legislation with federal legislation has been done fairly well. I won’t cite figures because you and I and representatives of the media and the deputies of the State Duma and regional deputies have cited them many times. The figures are well known. I repeat, a significant amount of positive work has been done. It was a priority task. And I must say that for the most part you have coped with it. Something still remains to be done, that is natural, but the job has largely been done.
Besides it has become clear that local executives who think in terms of the interests of the whole state themselves wanted order to be restored in this sphere, and I would like to thank them now. Please convey to them the best wishes and my thanks for joint work in this sphere. Without their support I doubt that we could have achieved the results that we have today. Obviously, legal chaos arose not only because the legal framework in the regions was often adjusted to suit certain personal and corporate interests. It was also due to poor coordination between different branches and levels of government, including the different branches of federal government at the regional level. So one of your key tasks has been and remains coordination of the activities of the federal power bodies at the regional level. And I am referring above all to law enforcement bodies and security structures. And naturally in this connection one of the main tasks is the fight against organised crime and organisation and coordination of that fight.
Second. Work should continue to harmonise regional legislation with federal laws. I have said that we have largely coped with that task. But largely does not mean completely. You know that a great deal has yet to be done in this sphere, and we should proceed hand-in-hand with the regional leaders and continue this work.
The third task, though not the third in terms of importance because it may easily be the top task today. I am referring to the delimitation of powers between all the levels of government in the country. You know that the Presidium of the State Council has set up a working group headed by the President of Tatarstan. It is to continue work, and I ask you to closely coordinate your work with that group which will operate within the framework of the State Council. I would like to draw attention to the sphere of budget federalism and optimisation of the distribution of financial resources. And I urge the Prime Minister to help the plenipotentiary representatives in this work, to issue corresponding directives to the sectoral ministries and agencies so that they all work together, especially the economic unit of the Government.
The fourth area is promoting the judiciary reform. We treat it as a priority. Your assistance is essential because your activities are directly connected with protecting people, upholding their interests and civil rights.
Fifth, making the civil service more efficient. The work we are conducting at the federal level must be backed by and synchronised with work in the regions. We have discussed it before and we have had several meetings with the top Government officials. I want you to continue this work. The presence of the federal power structures in the regions must be optimised. This work should be improved while reducing the resources. No sweeping actions should be taken, but common sense must eventually prevail. We should stop the growth of the number of federal officials in the regions and not hesitate to delegate certain functions to the regions. We have discussed it before. And coming back to the task I mentioned earlier, the powers must be delimited. But within the powers that will be retained by the federal centre these functions should be effective.
The next task is the personnel policy. Recruiting efficient heads of federal structures, mainly those who work in the regions. It has to be a substantial element of your activities.
Finally, the seventh point. It is necessary to foster the emergence of civil society bodies. I would like to underscore this. You are well aware that the State Duma is currently debating the development of a multi-party system in the country, the strengthening of party structures and the enlargement of parties. But that is not all that constitutes civil society. Without the support of youth, women’s, trade union organisations, employers’ associations, religious associations, without the support of all these components of civil society we won’t be able to build a normal country. I want you to pay close attention to this.
The main conclusion for us is that the institution of plenipotentiary representatives has justified itself. Of course, it has not been easy, but many obstacles have been cleared. Our common goal is to improve the well-being of the people and to provide them with legal protection. Ultimately our record for this year and next year will be judged on the basis of how we tackle this task together. There can be no other task. All I have said is just instruments for achieving this goal. If the living standards of the people rise, it means that our joint efforts make sense; and if not, all this is futile fuss.
I would like to stress that the institution of plenipotentiary representatives is an important component of presidential power. So I encourage you to proceed in a confident and aggressive manner.
Thank you for your attention.
Let us now move on to discuss our current agenda.