TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting with members of Legislators’ Council

Tauride Palace file photo - adapted from image © A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons

(Kremlin.ru – April 29, 2016)

Vladimir Putin took part in a meeting of the Federal Assembly’s Council of Legislators timed for the Day of Russian Parliamentarianism and the 110th anniversary of Russia’s first State Duma.

The meeting at the Tauride Palace is attended by Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin and speakers of regional parliaments.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues. As per tradition, we are meeting at the Tauride Palace in St Petersburg. On April 27, 1906, or 110 years ago, the first State Duma of the Russian Empire convened here. I would like to begin by congratulating you and your colleagues on the event we celebrate in this connection, the Day of Russian Parliamentarianism.

Over the past 25 years, the role of legislative authorities has increased considerably. The Federation Council, the State Duma and the legislatures of Russia’s regions make up a system of broad public representation.

Our concerted efforts have led to the creation of a unique institution, the Council of Legislators. It helps organise constructive cooperation between lawmakers at all levels, serving as a venue for respected experts and greatly contributing to improving the principles of Russian federalism.

The Council of Legislators is comprised of house and parliament speakers and chairpersons of State Duma and Federation Council committees. This format should be used to maximum effect to analyse regional legislatures’ initiatives at the top professional level to ensure their alignment, efficiency and viability and to remove any internal contradictions at the earliest possible stage. Each draft law must be considered from all possible angles and analysed very carefully to balance the interests of all sides.

Coordinating the interaction of all participants in the legislative process and ensuring consistency and a systemic approach are a big challenge. However, we must certainly accomplish this task, because the systemic nature of law making is a vital and possibly key condition for the stability of the state. While the predictability of the legal policy is a guarantee of the country’s effective development.

Once again, let me point to the fact that excessive frequency and, should I say, the fragmented nature of amendments to current federal laws, and even more so with codified legal acts, undoubtedly, does not make things any better. Primarily, it greatly complicates law enforcement and thus creates problems for ordinary people, economic players, and even government bodies. As it turns out, our legal framework is often inadequate.

You know, it is not uncommon for English and other types of law to be used in contracts. Why? We have to acknowledge that other jurisdictions offer more stability. Unfortunately, in Russia there is a lack of certainty and clarity, which leads to serious issues when it comes to ensuring uniformity in enforcing these norms. There is no doubt that we have to move away from this, should I say, contradictory nature and vagueness of our laws, by improving policy-making and our legislative culture.

This, by the way, is a common objective for all those involved in legislative work, for all those who have the authority to draft new laws. Of course, lawmakers have to respond to the changes we face, and this change can be rapid, meaning that legislators have to regulate social interaction in a constantly changing environment.

That said, legal norms should not be subject to chaotic and spontaneous overhauling. New norms should be introduced into the current laws with extreme caution to avoid clashes with the old or excessive regulation. In a challenging economic environment, hearing and taking into account the opinions of all stakeholders is especially important.

Delivering on social commitments is a key priority for the state, which faces a dual challenge: the need to bring in budget revenue while, of course, also preserving drivers for the development of the regional and national economies. In fact, regional budgets and the development of the regions are the bedrock of stability in the country and the prosperity of its people.

Following the recent Direct Line, instructions were issued to finalise the mechanism for the distribution of tax revenues, for example, fuel excise taxes, so as, among other things, to give the country’s regions additional leverage to expand road construction projects. I believe that the activity of the Council of Legislators should be aimed at making similar balanced decisions that take into account the interests both of the Federation and of Russian regions.

Representatives of legislative assemblies work on the local level. You, esteemed colleagues, have professional experience and, most importantly, know well the issues that concern people and, therefore, should propose to the Federal Assembly effective ways of addressing these issues. This constructive partnership makes it possible for regional lawmakers to be constantly on the federal agenda and take it into account in their legislative activity on the local level. Naturally, the decisions that are made by the federal parliament should duly reflect regional and municipal needs and concerns.

I would like to reiterate that people assess the efficiency of government not only by the actions of particular state bodies or officials, but above all by the results of our joint activity. Generally, only collective efforts can ensure the resolution of the issues facing Russia as a whole.

Ladies and gentlemen, State Duma elections are to take place this autumn. Needless to say, their results will predetermine the direction of the country’s development for the next few years. It is an extremely important internal political event in Russia.

On the combined election day, September 18, people will elect deputies to 38 legislative assemblies in the country’s regions. Thus, new members will be elected not only to the federal parliament but also to practically half of the regional parliaments. In this context, it is important to ensure the continuity of lawmaking activity. This applies both to the State Duma and to regional legislatures.

All members of the Council of Legislators have gone through the electoral system. Many will participate in the current election campaign by supporting candidates or promoting their own candidacies. Therefore, you understand well how important it is for this campaign to proceed without violations and in an absolutely competitive, just and fair manner. I would like to ask you in the course of the upcoming elections to pay special attention to this, as it is a guarantee of public trust in the ruling bodies that are elected, and the foundation of these bodies’ legitimacy.

Moreover, elections, of course, are always a direct dialogue with the people. It is essential to use it to respond promptly to questions raised by citizens. I am referring both to federal and to regional problems.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are meeting ahead of two major public holidays: the Spring and Labour Holiday and Victory Day. Allow me to sincerely congratulate you on the upcoming holidays and wish you success in your extremely important and responsible work.

Thank you.

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Vladimir Putin: Allow me please to make several remarks concerning your statements.

As we started with information about the launching site, I must say that it is really a breakthrough. It does not concern the rocket launch so much: the rocket might be new but it is not the latest make, and it has been launched several times before. Strictly speaking, we put the launch off for a day not because of the rocket proper – it turned out to be all right – but because of gauges that wrongly signalled a lack of fuel while there was sufficient fuel, in fact. As it often happens in this country, the whole trouble was in a tiny detail. A cable or welding was to blame but not the rocket itself.

It was good, however, that the staff had a chance to do the job again. The team performed brilliantly all through the night. They made the right decision and the launch was a success. Nonetheless, I reiterate, even the rocket launch mattered less than the fact that the new space centre has started functioning. It is a tremendous stride in this country’s space rocket industry.

It would be appropriate to use the old saying here: “An egg is dearest at Easter,” especially now that Easter is approaching. Whatever limitations might be brought on from the outside, whatever economic hardships and budgetary and financial limitations we might encounter, Russia is making steady progress and implementing all its plans.

I must say that a launch site is not merely a pad to launch rockets from, but a high-tech project in every aspect. This is one of the best launch sites in the world because we have taken into account everything done in the space effort worldwide. It is a small and close-knit cluster of really high technology.

I hope that we will implement all our plans. We have coped by now only with the first stage. Heavy rocket launches are to follow. They will need a special pad. Then the turn of super-heavy spacecraft will come for lunar and planetary exploration. Naturally, manned flights will start from here at the second stage.

Russia remains among the unrivalled leaders in the space rocket industry, and the absence of our own multi-purpose space centre was absurd. Work on the site began back in 2007. As you know, we upgraded the local railway step by step, and we will make further improvements on it. We have built a motorway, and are building a township for the future personnel. However, our efforts do not boil down to that.

The launch site is giving an impetus to the development of the entire [Russian] Far East: the Far Eastern Federal University and other educational institutions are already adjusting their curricula to the space industry’s demands. Specialists will be trained at the site. In short, we are not only making a stride of tremendous importance to the space rocket industry but also boosting the development of the Russian Far East.

Now allow me to comment on some of the issues that you have raised.

Kaliningrad. We have already discussed several projects. Of course, subsidies related to the transitional period regarding the free trade zone are important. This is big money, I believe 66 billion. Essentially, little has changed with respect to the federal budget. We took [it] from one pocket and put [it] in the other.

However, these funds and subsidies are meant for the transitional period and during this time, it is necessary to bring everything that happens in Kaliningrad in line with common sense, federal law and the interests of the country’s economy as a whole. However, this should be done calmly, without affecting Kaliningrad manufacturers.

An issue that we will have to resolve together – of course, Kaliningrad can do little in this regard directly, but nevertheless, a great deal also depends on the local authorities in terms of helping federal agencies. I am referring to energy security. This applies to electricity and gas distribution and power grids.

As you know, work is underway on a liquefied natural gas project, a project to expand power capacities, and it is vital to repair the grids. There is no getting away from this.

Regarding preparations for the world championship, I also hope that everything will be done on time and with good quality.

Incidentally, we have a similar situation in Crimea, that of ensuring Crimea’s energy security. I would like to inform you that energy companies planned to have this done even before the deadline, but now the weather in the straits is unfavourable and the ships have to scale down their operations for several days. So everything will be done, in other words, the fourth line will be put into service and I believe we will complete this work in the next few days, in early May.

Regarding oncology, yes, I know that this problem exists. It is a sensitive issue in Kaliningrad. We will think what can be done in conjunction with the Ministry of Health.

Kaluga. Indeed, everything works well there, both the 12 industrial parks and the free economic zone. However, this is not about the tools that are available; this is about how you utilise them. You use them well and this is a good example of how work should be organised.

Concerning the provision of more funds in addition to those provided for industrial park infrastructure… Money is always short, even in days of abundance, because when revenues grow we increase spending and again there is not enough to go round. This is not even an issue of amount, but one of efficient utilisation. This is what I would like you to bear in mind.

Kamchatka. It was difficult to make [the decision]. We discussed drift-net fishing with Valentina Matviyenko and, surprisingly, it proved difficult; we did not expect such resistance. Nevertheless, the matter has been resolved. The decision has been made. We also explained to our foreign partners, including our Japanese partners that this is not about them but about organising this kind of activity. After all, this concerns the environment, the preservation of our reserves.

Regarding residence registration procedure for enterprises, this is the first time I am hearing about this kind of issue. We will definitely discuss it.

As far as anti-corruption laws and regulations are concerned, what you have proposed certainly deserves support. However, your proposals require thorough consideration, not directly as you have voiced them, but a pondering over the situation in every aspect, in order to move on.

We have made many anti-corruption decisions lately, but if you find that any issues require extra measures – suspension [of suspects] from office during investigation or whatever else might be necessary, if such measures need to be fixed by law, let us think it over.

Concerning growing alcohol abuse, on the one hand, and the growth of life expectancy, on the other hand, given the proactive policy in the relevant field. These two factors are certainly interdependent. It is an inverse relationship – the less you drink the longer you live, and the other way round. That is clear, but this is not all because we owe a higher birth rate, longer life span, and declining infant and maternal mortality to our comprehensive efforts.

We must certainly combat mass alcohol abuse. These efforts must not take the turn that a similar campaign took in the late 1980s when official action led to bootlegging. However, temperance efforts are necessary, and we should not overlook other factors of Russian citizens’ longevity and health.

I would like to move now to what the Speaker of the Smolensk regional legislature said. It was a timely issue that you raised. However, should we shift the funding of grave tending fully to the federal level? The matter should be considered. Firstly, you see, there are some things the authorities in Moscow are unaware of. Local people are better judges on many occasions.

Secondly, we should not make federal funding clash with decisions made locally. It is our duty to improve this work. Without question, all our soldiers who laid down their lives for the Fatherland in World War Two deserve decent burial and a proper tribute to their memory. They do not need it as much as we, as future generations do and all of Russia does. That is the truth and we shall work towards that end.

As for the organisation and technical aspects of funding, we will have to think this over together. The federal and regional authorities must certainly work together. How to organise the job is a separate matter. Let us think it over some more.

I would like to congratulate you again on the upcoming holidays. Best wishes to you all!

Thank you very much.

[featured image is file photo]