President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
Let me warmly welcome you to Moscow for the Russian World Congress of Compatriots. I am very glad that such meetings have already become a great tradition. Every year there are more of us in this hall and more participants in general. As you know today's Congress is the third in the series.
Representatives of Russian-speaking communities from 90 different countries have gathered in this hall. It is not only Russian language and culture that unite us, although of course these are important and fundamental things that bind together the people in this hall, but also respect for our history and our traditions, and, most importantly, a common concern for Russia, for Russia's destiny and ultimately for our shared destiny.
In my recent Address to the Federal Assembly I singled out one very significant strategic goal: Russia must confirm its status as a global power, but on a fundamentally new basis.
How are we to do this? Of course, we ourselves must change. Today, the only way we can create a modern country is to modernise our economy and our political life. We need to create a modern country, what is now called a smart economy, based on innovation and high technology — this is our single most important task.
Despite the fact that Russia remains a major energy power, we still have to think about how we will evolve in the 21st century. And we sincerely hope that our compatriots will contribute to this great effort. We really need your intellectual and professional skills. Certainly, we also need ideas and suggestions that take into account the experience of other countries, the experience of countries in which you now live.
To judge by the significant number of responses to my speeches, to the articles I've written and to other publications, I know that you really are taking our problems to heart.
In the first ten months of this year there have been several thousand responses from abroad to my various video blogs and the article I wrote in September [Go, Russia!]. In these responses our compatriots – you – came up with an impressive array of ideas. And I can assure you that if any of you heard things in my Address that resonate with your ideas, then that is no coincidence: it is because I was building on your ideas in putting together my Address.
Russia is intent on not forgetting its compatriots. Of course this is a big job. Gone are the days when people who were outside the country, often through no fault of their own, even without wanting to be, were simply crossed off our list of concerns.
Support for our compatriots is one of the most important areas for development in our country. It is enshrined as a priority in the Foreign Policy Concept that was approved by the President. In recent years, we have identified a number of precepts that are now being consistently implemented, but naturally I hope you understand that this depends upon our current capabilities. I think that we will be able to do more; in any event, this is what we should strive for, but we have to take our current situation into account.
Let me brief you on what needs to be done. We must prepare amendments to the Federal Law on Russian public policy towards compatriots abroad. This bill addresses a number of regulations that are obviously outdated and it will very soon be submitted [to the State Duma]. On November 17, it was submitted to the Government Cabinet. So of course work on this will continue. It will clarify the concept of compatriots abroad. I hope that the concept will be made more precise, although again I think that all these issues should be discussed, including in this framework of the Congress that is taking place here. Compatriots' non-governmental organisations will be able to register such people and to provide the relevant certificates, taking into account of course the skills our compatriots have and the roles that they play in society. Special efforts will be made to increase the role of the Congress and various coordinating councils, as well as expand the possibilities for Russian regions to work with compatriots. This is especially timely given the fact that more than 20 Russian regions have programmes or plans for working with compatriots.
Changes will also be made to the government programme to assist the voluntary resettlement of compatriots in Russia. In this we are perhaps not moving as fast as we would like. As of November this year more than 17,000 people and their families have come back to Russia under the auspices of this programme. But I am confident that we can expand this work. I am confident that when and if we have additional funding opportunities we will strengthen this programme.
First and foremost I will extend the deadline given to the Federal Migration Service offices abroad working on the resettlement programme. In addition, in the Russian regions that are implementing the relevant elements of the programme, additional measures are being taken to ensure the registration of participants and registration of the relevant documents.
On the other hand, I would like to emphasise that of course we are not looking simply to run up the numbers. The total figure matters, but the most important thing is that our compatriots currently outside Russia remain confident that they can return to their homeland, and that, if they so desire, their country, Russia, will give them its full support.
This leads to another very essential subject. We urgently need our young compatriots to better understand what is happening in Russia, so that they can not only know what is going on in our country but, to speak frankly and perhaps a little pompously, they can actually feel proud of it. And to this end, we intend to create an environment that facilitates educating our compatriots in Russia's higher education institutions and the campuses that have been created in other countries, primarily in the Commonwealth of Independent States. We are also going to continue to hold festivals and competitions for young talent, university and school contests, as well as assist in organising trips to historic places of Russia.
Incidentally this year the quota for compatriots in Russia's educational institutions was increased to 10,000. Once again, perhaps we can eventually aim higher, but I would draw your attention to the fact that this has been achieved during the financial crisis, at a time when we were forced to reduce funding for a range of cultural programmes. This does mean, however, that we consider this issue and this programme to be extremely important.
Let me say frankly that I hope that your presence here today will enable an exchange of views that will provide a solid foundation for new decisions on the basis of your work. Colleagues who are here to represent government authorities and public organisations will report to me on the proposals made and, make no mistake, I will give the appropriate instructions to the Cabinet, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture and every other department that is involved with this issue, along with the relevant administrative structures, in order to carry out your suggestions, subject of course to our current capabilities.
The most important task is to preserve, develop and popularise the Russian language. For centuries, the Russian language has been and continues to be not merely a lingua franca, but obviously for many peoples and cultures what is essentially a window opening on a vast world. In this regard, I would like to commend the work of the Russian World Fund for providing grants in support of Russian language, cultural and educational programmes.
I believe that its creation has given a certain impetus to international cooperation and helped to expand our cultural space. This does not mean that there is nothing more to do, or that the fund has already exhausted its powers. There is an enormous amount of work to be done, but it's good that such a fund has been established, because this is how others have proceeded. Almost every nation that has experienced a diaspora, that has compatriots abroad, has established such a fund, and we need not only to create such a fund but also to make sure it develops by providing it with additional funding.
Our plans also involve developing a network of Russian centres of science and culture to be included in Russian Cooperation, our new organisation engaged in this work. Of course protecting the rights and interests of our compatriots remains a priority. I listened to the speeches of our friends and colleagues and that seems to be one of the most difficult and perhaps one of the most important topics, because in any event decisions that are contrary to international norms cannot be ignored in our country.
This does not mean that we can control all the processes that occur. That can't be done, the world is too complicated. But it is very important that such rights violations not be neglected in the Russian Federation. At a minimum, it will create problems for those nations that consistently find themselves in violation of international law. Obviously in these cases, human rights organisations of our compatriots will get our qualified legal assistance.
I think that what is urgently needed is the creation of a special mechanism for the protection and support of compatriots, support in the sense of protecting their rights. The Russian Government is considering ways in which this issue might be resolved. I gave the appropriate instruction in February this year, and we are now working to create a fund for the support and protection of the rights of compatriots living abroad. I hope that we can solve this problem.
Speaking about support for Russians, for all the compatriots, overseas compatriots, I must not forget to mention the role of the Russian Orthodox Church and our other traditional faiths in the revival of the spiritual unity of our compatriots and the strengthening of humanitarian and cultural ties with our historical homeland. Without fail we intend to maintain contacts between the nation and its respective faiths.
Dear friends, we are just about six months away from a remarkable date, the 65th anniversary of Victory. I am sure that for each of us, for everyone sitting in this hall, this date is sacred. Of course this is an anniversary not only for our compatriots but in my view a European anniversary and, if we think about it for a moment, an important anniversary for the entire planet. Unfortunately some forces do not see it in that way and do not like it. Unfortunately, there are those who are trying to manipulate this issue for some political advantage; however paltry? for them it is probably important.
Russia has been and will remain on the side of historical truth in this matter, and I have repeatedly spoken on this subject. Here in this hall I want to say this: we will support the actions of compatriots' organisations and veterans' organisations to resist revanchism and xenophobia. We are counting on honourably celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory. I invite you all to come to our country.
I am convinced that in the twenty-first century Russia can expect to win new victories, though of course it will face new challenges as well. The one cannot be separated from the other. The main thing is to remain united, to pull together, to act jointly and responsibly. This is really of the utmost importance. Every one of our compatriots should know that Russia is behind you!
Let me wish everyone in this hall success and encourage you in your good work, interesting discussions and, most importantly, the creation of new projects that will contribute to our unity. We have already done a lot, if we compare our current situation to what it was, say, ten years ago, but it is still not enough. I very much hope that this Congress will make a contribution to this process.
Thank you very much and see you soon.