President Vladimir Putin: Good day, dear colleagues!
The year 2007 is coming to an end. It has been filled with large and important political events, and the most important has been without doubt the elections to the State Duma.
The Constitutional Court supported the change to a proportional system of voting. Both theory and practice have shown that this decision was justified. Eleven political parties took part in the election campaign. The largest of them went to the State Duma, and voter turnout, a very important indicator, was the highest in recent years.
On 12 December, we celebrated Constitution Day, and in this regard I would like to point out that, as we have repeatedly stressed, the constitution is the Basic Law of the country, without question the foundation of the modern Russian state. It ensures the priority of citizens’ rights and freedoms and preserves stability and harmony in society.
During the 16 years of its existence, the Constitutional Court has accumulated a wealth of experience in constitutional proceedings. And today it is important to maintain the very high professional standard that it has set.
When the issue of further strengthening the material and technical basis of the Constitutional Court was resolved on the initiative of the State Duma, it was decided to locate the Constitutional Court here, in one of the most beautiful architectural ensembles not only in Russia but also in the world.
And this move has conceptual as well as aesthetic significance for our country. The history of Russian statehood is bound up with this ensemble. It was here that the Senate and the Synod, the outstanding symbols of Russian statehood, were founded. And for those who love and cherish the pages of Russian history, of course, the original plans for putting up a hotel and similar concerns using foreign capital, were if not blasphemous at least unpersuasive.
And the decision that was taken by the deputies of the State Duma to situate the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation here, right beside the Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin Presidential Library, was in my view the best possible decision. In addition, we resolved another very important issue: we moved the Russian State Historical Archive out of its completely unsuitable and hazardous location into its new setting, a brand new complex built especially for it, a modern convenient place for archivists to do their work. And we now have every reason to believe that the Historical Archive will be at home in its new environment for a long time, and the historical memory of our people will be properly maintained.
I would like to congratulate you on this event, on the move into this complex, and to wish you success with your work. I want to say that today I will be signing a decree concerning the timing of the move, as well as discussing with you the terms for ensuring the security of the Constitutional Court in the future.
I wish you a Happy New Year!
All my best wishes for your success!
Valerii Zorkin, chairman of the Constitutional Court: On behalf of the Constitutional Court, I would like to thank you for your assessment of our work.
I think that this is not occasioned by some servile sense of gratitude but the recognition that we have a Constitution, and under our Constitution, the President is the guarantor of the Basic Law and provides for the smooth coordination of all our authorities’ activities.
As one of the supreme bodies of state power in Russia, the Constitutional Court of course exerts every effort to face up to the challenge of protecting the constitutional order, ensuring the rights and freedoms of our citizens, and guaranteeing the security of the individual, society and the state.
We are indeed faced with a variety of difficult situations. From time to time judges must make very difficult choices, and it is most important that we choose the correct road to follow. Here the general atmosphere of the state and the constructive interaction with authorities that has been created in recent years have been important.
This year was indeed for us that much more noteworthy as a very important stage in the preparation for the elections, and we had very difficult discussions that found their way into society as a whole. These were all about the electoral system and the threshold for the number of parties. We believe that we made the right decision, because the result have shown that pluralism, a multi-party system and the principles of the rule of law in the country have been maintained.
It would certainly be inappropriate for me to praise our work, and therefore I will not engage in that. The more criticism we have, the better and more productive our future work will be.
Because we are now in this new building that has such symbolic importance for Russia, I would particularly like to emphasise what you have said: at the various stages of its development Russia has appeared in different guises – as an empire, the Soviet Union, contemporary Russia – but in all these stages, we have still had to deal with the same Russia, in the sense that it is our country, our Fatherland, and this is reflected in the preamble to the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
The fact that we are now in this building, namely, the principal judicial institution in the Russian Empire, is also significant, because up until this stage in the history of Russia, the courts have not been housed in anything that could be called a palace of justice. On the contrary, they were in cobbled together huts and tottering peasant houses, which makes what has been done now simply amazing.
It should be explicitly said that we the judges knew that when you launched this idea that it would come to fruition. I think that if it had not been for the will of the President, this project would never have been realised.
But I want to emphasise that I think the country deserves to have the Constitutional Court located in the most important palace of justice in the land.
As delegations we have visited other countries, and I can say with the utmost confidence that where there are constitutional courts, no country in the world has such a building for its highest court or Constitutional Court, including the palaces of Western Europe. In a very real sense this is not just a complex but a genuine palace.
I would especially like to emphasise that the entire edifice was designed and implemented as a complex and not just a building, as was all its infrastructure. We hope that we can move here by the deadline that has been set. There are all sorts of consequences associated with the implementation of justice here, in our northern capital.
Once again thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: I will just say a word or two because I was building on what Valerii Dmitrievich just said about our northern capital. I must say that for the city that is also a symbolic event, because we are accustomed to call Petersburg our second capital, our northern capital, but before it performed none of the functions of a capital. By moving the Constitutional Court here, we are giving Petersburg such a function and now we really can call St Petersburg our second capital.
But to ensure that we keep to schedule – and in the decree that I am about to sign we have set the date of completion as 21 May 2008 – to move this project which started from nothing a year and a half, two years ago, to where it is now, we created an interdepartmental working group, headed by Dmitrii Anatoyevich Medvedev which he still chairs. And I want to thank him too, as well as all of our colleagues who were engaged in the organisation of this work. I hope that they will do everything to ensure that the challenge of moving the Court here will be met.
Dmitry Anatolyevich, please.
Dmitrii Medvedev: Thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Dear colleagues, dear Vladimir Vladimirovich. I am also very pleased that such a huge task has been accomplished so quickly. A large team of people carried out this work, both constructing the building and dealing with other issues related to the move. Their skill in working together has manifested itself in this brilliant result.
Speaking frankly, I must say that when I came here a year and a half ago with Valery Dmitrievich, I was horrified by the conditions of our State Archive. As Vladimir Vladimirovich has just said, this is the best demonstration of how quickly and effectively a number of important challenges for the state can be resolved.
As for the symbolism of the building and location of the Constitutional Court, I think that it is very important that the Constitutional Court will in the future do its work in new place in Russia’s history, and that one of the most important branches of government will carry out its functions independently in a different place, not in our capital but in another city, in our northern capital. In fact, this strengthens our state and its federal nature when one branch of government begins its work in a location other than Moscow. This, too, I think is very important for strengthening our country.
Vladimir Putin: Valerii Dimitrievich, I am pleased to sign the decree concerning moving the Constitutional Court to the city of St Petersburg. Once again, I warmly congratulate you all. Thank you.