Vladimir Putin made annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation which outlines priority targets for national political and economic development.
The event took place in St George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace and was attended by the members of the Council of Federation, State Duma and Government, Presidents of the Constitutional, Supreme and Higher Arbitration Court, heads of the constitutional entities, chairpersons of regional legislative assemblies, heads of traditional faiths, public figures and executives of major media outlets.
The President highlighted several fundamental issues that are vitally important for Russia’s present and future.
Vladimir Putin stressed that the coming years will be decisive and perhaps even ground-breaking not only for Russia, but also for the entire world, which is entering an era of dramatic changes and possibly even shocks. Global development is becoming increasingly unequal, which may give rise to new economic, geopolitical and ethnic conflicts. Competition for resources is becoming tougher and a great deal will depend not only on the economic potential but also on the will of each nation, its internal energy and ability to move forward and change.
In the 21st century Russia must be a sovereign and influential nation amid a new balance of economic, civilization and military forces. It must not only develop with confidence, but also preserve its national and spiritual identity, its sense of national unity. In this regard, the President noted the rise of civic engagement in the country. Vladimir Putin sees civil responsibility and patriotism as a consolidating force behind Russian politics.
Next, the head of state focused on addressing demographic issues, noting that demographic programs adopted in the past decade have been effective. The country’s population has not only stabilized but also began to grow. The President outlined the main directions of further growth, including the creation and implementation of regional demographic programs. He believes families with three children should become the standard in Russia.
The President also touched on the issue of creating quality new jobs that will be the driving force behind growth of wages and well being, the revival of engineering schools and professional training.
Speaking of the social sphere, which employs highly educated and qualified people, the so-called creative class of doctors, school and university teaching staff, scientists and culture professionals, Vladimir Putin recalled that the Presidential executive orders he signed in May stipulate wage increase for each category of employees in these fields, and instructed the heads of the federal and regional authorities to mobilize all available resources to achieve this goal.
It is also necessary, the President stressed, to strengthen the spiritual and moral fabric of society. Issues of secondary education, culture and youth policy take on special importance in this regard as they are responsible for shaping a balanced, moral and responsible citizen of Russia. It is essential to give every support to the institutions that have enshrined our traditional values and have historically proven their ability to pass them on from generation to generation.
The President spoke about the revival of national consciousness, the development of Russia as a multinational state and the inadmissibility of any manifestations of nationalism and chauvinism, which cause the greatest damage to the nation and the ethnic group whose interests the nationalists claim to be defending. Vladimir Putin made several proposals in the field of immigration policy, including on such issues as granting Russian citizenship and the fight against illegal immigration, as well as the development of distance education in Russian that would be available to everyone in the world.
Democracy is the only political choice for Russia, the President said. But Russian democracy is the power of the Russian people, with their own traditions of self-rule, and not the fulfillment of standards imposed on us from the outside. The framework of the state and society must not be affected, the continuity of national development must not be disrupted, national sovereignty and the rights and freedoms of our citizens must never be questioned. Moreover, democracy is the ability not only to choose the government, but also to constantly monitor the government and evaluate the results of its work.
In his Address, the President formulated a set of rules of fair political competition.
Russia is characterized by a tradition of a strong state, the President said, citing poor performance of state agencies and corruption as the main problems in this area. The President listed the key principles for a new model of public administration, including the new forms and methods of control, effective motivation of municipal officials and the introduction of certain restrictions concerning, in particular, foreign accounts, assets and real estate.
The President made a number of proposals with regard to the fight against corruption, including the development of public control mechanisms.
Talking about the economy, the President highlighted the importance of moving away from a commodity-based economic model and overcoming the economy’s dependence on financial and commodity markets in other countries, as well as some issues of jurisdiction and administrative proceedings. The President suggested that the Government and the Central Bank consider new mechanisms for financing the economy and further reducing inflation. The tax system must correspond to the needs of economic restructuring. It is essential to stimulate investment and development, shifting the tax burden towards consumption, including excise goods and expensive real estate, the President stressed.
The President also asked the Government to adopt a road map for enhancing competition as part of its efforts on the national entrepreneurial initiative and to begin its implementation next year.
Vladimir Putin also touched on the issues of food security, the environment, industry modernization, development of science and technology, which requires the full use of the unprecedented funds allocated for defense procurement and modernization of the defense industry.
We also need an investment map of Russia, the President said, providing investors with clear information on the regions where it is more profitable to work, to set up production facilities, and what forms of state support will be available to businesses in the near future.
In the international part of the Address, the President stressed the multipolar nature of the modern world, noting that Russia stands for the principles of coherent and collective efforts in addressing challenges facing the world today and can propose projects that will unite nations and regions. Vladimir Putin confirmed Russia’s intention to move towards closer integration with its immediate neighbors. He stressed that the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are already working effectively. Efforts have begun on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union, and this goal will be achieved.
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PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Citizens of Russia,
Federation Council members and State Duma deputies,
Recently, just a few months ago, in the articles written during the presidential election campaign and then in the executive orders signed in May 2012 I set out our position and our short and medium term plans. They covered all areas of our work and our lives: the economy, social sphere, domestic policy, international affairs and security issues. These documents describe our plans in detail, sometimes citing specific figures and deadlines. Some of them are already being implemented, for example raising teachers’ wages and some other tasks. We have put together the required regulatory framework with regard to all other items on our agenda. The work has begun. I want to assure all citizens of our country that it will continue; we will tackle all the tasks we have set without fail. The commission that was created specifically for this purpose will monitor these efforts.
Today, in my first Address to the Federal Assembly since being elected President, I will not speak in detail about those plans. It is too early to talk about any substantial adjustments but there are several points I would like to make in this regard.
I would like to highlight some of the key aspects of our progress, questions that are fundamental for Russia’s present and future not only in the medium but also in the long term, the most basic issues for each and every one of us.
A great deal has been achieved in the first twelve years of the new century. The stage of national reconstruction and strengthening, which is enormous in its importance, has been completed. Our task now is to build a rich and prosperous Russia. I would like all of us to understand clearly that the coming years will be decisive and perhaps even ground-breaking not only for us, but for the entire world as it enters a period of transition and possibly even shocks.
Global development is becoming increasingly unequal. This creates a fertile ground for new economic, geopolitical and ethnic conflicts. Competition for resources is becoming more intense. And I can assure you and want to emphasize that this competition will not be limited only to metals, oil and gas, but above all will focus on human resources and intelligence. Who will take the lead and who will remain outsiders and inevitably lose their independence will depend not only on the economic potential, but primarily on the will of each nation, on its inner energy which Lev Gumilev termed “passionarity”: the ability to move forward and to embrace change.
People in countries with developed economies and many countries with developing economies have become used to constant consumption growth, the expansion of life and cultural opportunities. That is good but it is possible to ensure the continuation of such growth in the modern world only through the introduction of a new technological order, and that is a great obstacle in many parts of the world. A country that is unable to secure its place among the developers of new innovative technologies is not just doomed to dependence: the share of the global “pie” which will benefit its businesses and citizens will be much smaller than that of the leaders. See how the revenue is distributed today between those who produce intellectual products and the consumers of the end product. The share is 15% and 75-80%.
In the 21st century amid a new balance of economic, civilization and military forces Russia must be a sovereign and influential country. We should not just develop with confidence, but also preserve our national and spiritual identity, not lose our sense of national unity. We must be and remain Russia.
After 70 years of the Soviet period, Russian people went through a period when the importance of their private interests regained its relevance. That was a necessary and natural stage. However, working for one’s own interests has its limits. Prosperity cannot be achieved if chaos, disorder and insecurity reign beyond the walls of your house. You cannot live without having regard for others, without helping the weak, without extending your responsibility beyond the responsibility of your family or profession. Today more and more people in our country understand this. This has lead to the rise of civic engagement. People begin to relate their own lives and work with caring for others, with the aspirations of the entire nation and the interests of the state.
Today is December 12, the Constitution Day, and I would like to say a few words about the values that are rooted in the fundamental law of our country. The nation-wide responsibility for our country to the present and future generations is hailed by the Constitution as a fundamental principle of the Russian state. It is in civil responsibility and patriotism that I see the consolidating force behind our policy.
Being a patriot means not only to treat one’s national history with love and respect, although, of course, that is very important, but first and foremost to serve one’s country and society. As Solzhenitsyn said, patriotism is an organic, natural feeling. And as a society cannot survive without civil responsibility, so a country, especially a multinational one, cannot exist without a nationwide responsibility. These are remarkable words, they really bring it home.
A sense of responsibility for one’s country cannot be instilled with slogans or appeals; people must see that the authorities are transparent, accessible, work hard for the benefit of the country, city, region, village and every citizen, and respond to public opinion. The authorities must not be an isolated caste. This is the only way to build a strong moral foundation for creative work, an affirmation of order and freedom, morality and civic solidarity, justice and truth, and nationally oriented consciousness.
What will guarantee Russia’s sovereignty in the 21st century? We often talk about this today. First, the country must have a sufficient amount of its own resources. This is not so that we could produce everything at home. Nobody lives like this anymore and I think that no one will ever live like this again. Russia must not only preserve its geopolitical relevance – it must multiply it, it must generate demand among our neighbors and partners. I emphasize that this is in our own interest. This applies to our economy, culture, science and education, as well as our diplomacy, particularly the ability to mobilize collective actions at the international level. Last but not least it applies to our military might that guarantees Russia’s security and independence.
Against the background of conflicting processes in the world, the interests of the nation require decisive action. We must look ahead and focus on the future.
In the 20th century Russia went through two world wars and a civil war, through revolutions, and twice it experienced the collapse of a unified state. The whole way of life changed radically in our country several times. As a result, at the beginning of the 21st century, we were faced with a real demographic and moral catastrophe, with a demographic and moral crisis. If the nation is unable to preserve and reproduce itself, if it loses vital references and ideals, it does not need an external enemy because it will fall apart on its own.
I have talked about this many times but I want to emphasize it again. For Russia to be a sovereign and strong nation there must be more of us and we must be better in our morality, competences, work and creative endeavors. Today, the share of the young, active, working population aged 20 to 40 years in Russia is one of the highest among the developed countries. But in just 20 years, this age group could be reduced by half. If nothing is done, this trend will continue. Either right now we can open up a lifelong outlook for the young generation to secure good, interesting jobs, to create their own businesses, to buy housing, to build large and strong families and bring up many children, to be happy in their own country, or in just a few decades, Russia will become a poor, hopelessly aged (in the literal sense of the word) country, unable to preserve its independence and even its territory.
The demographic programs adopted in the past decade have shown their effectiveness. The country’s population has not only stabilized, but it has also begun to grow. In January-September 2012, it has grown by more than 200,000 people. For the first time in our country’s recent history, natural population growth has been posted for five months in a row: the birth rate has finally started to exceed the death rate.
In the past four years life expectancy in Russia has grown by almost 2.5 years (this is a good indicator) and has exceeded 70 years. However, the mortality rate remains very high, especially among middle-aged men. Together we must fight the frankly irresponsible attitude in society towards healthy living. Along with the development of public healthcare more attention should be paid to preventive care. Naturally, this does not mean that we should focus less attention on improving healthcare and increasing its accessibility – not at all. However, it is not enough to limit our efforts to medicine. The Government should introduce programs for replacing jobs with hazardous conditions and improving road safety. Only smoking (we know this well as we have discussed this many times already), alcohol and drug addiction cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in our country every year.
A vitally important area is the development of physical fitness and sport, especially among young people. After all, the reason why we will be hosting the biggest international sports events is to encourage people to exercise, to raise the popularity and prestige of sports and fitness. But this task, the task of promoting sports and fitness, mass sports, cannot be achieved through international sporting events and even increasing the hours of physical education in schools and universities. We need new methods, a wide range of not only sports, but also fitness activities, especially for children, and I want to emphasize this: activities for young children. As we know, lifelong habits and interest are formed at this age, and we must work to encourage them.
I believe it is crucial to support the idea of creating associations of student sports clubs. Such an organization would not only contribute to the development of university sports, but in a sense could give a social boost for talented, focused and active young people. I think it is important that such an organization remains beyond politics and unites young people with a wide variety of political views.
We have adopted a program providing family (maternity) capital at the birth of the second child. It is being implemented successfully, and will continue to be implemented until the end of 2016. We will fulfill all our obligations under this program.
I want to stress once again: the program was adopted until 2016, that is, every family that has a second child before 2016 will receive maternity capital and other benefits as required by law. This does not mean that I now want to encourage women to have a second child. Women know what they need to do and when. But it is our responsibility to inform people, just as we must decide what to do with this program after 2016. Starting in 2013, we will begin paying additional benefits for the third and subsequent children in those regions where the demographic situation is worse than the national average.
We have 50 such regions in the Russian Federation, and most of them are concentrated in the Central, Northwestern, Volga and Far Eastern federal districts.
In addition, I would like to remind the heads of all Russian regions about the need to adopt and implement their own regional demographic programs. Demographers say that the decision to have a second child is a potential decision to have a third. It is important that more families take this step. And, despite some experts’ doubts (with all due respect), I still believe that families with three children should become the standard in Russia. But a great deal must be done to make this a reality.
First of all, we must create a favorable environment for women so that they do not fear that the birth of the second and subsequent children will limit their career opportunities, their chances to find a good job and will force them to become housewives. Our efforts to eliminate waiting lists for kindergartens, introduce vocational training programs for women who have children and provide support for flexible forms of employment will have a direct influence on each family’s decision to have the second and third child.
Special attention should be given to pre-school education, including support for the creation of private pre-schools. The Government has already eliminated many barriers in this area. Please finalize this work in the first six months of 2013, and I ask the regions to make active use of the opportunities provided. We must finally let the people work normally so that they can open small home-based kindergartens and all-day childcare, which means that parents will have a choice of day care without the waiting lists and all the anxiety.
I am confident that we have a unique opportunity in the next decade to fundamentally resolve another long-standing Russian problem: housing. I think this is the most important issue both for the Government and heads of the Russian regions. In the first stage of the Housing National Project we successfully promoted the development of mortgage loans. In the past two years, these loans have been growing by 40-50% a year. This is a good indicator, but frankly, as we know, mortgage loans mostly benefit people with above average incomes. Other people cannot afford them.
Therefore, now, at the new stage, we must attempt to resolve the housing problem for a broader range of people: young families, social sphere professionals, doctors, teachers, scientists and engineers, and take measures to increase the commissioning of affordable economy class housing, as well as greatly enhance the opportunities to rent housing. Some regions already have pilot projects that serve as case studies for various forms of rental market support. Such housing must be affordable to working people.
We also emphasize that in 2013-2014 we will fully meet our obligations to provide housing to military personnel and war veterans, and make significant progress in relocating people from unfit housing. In the next few years all people who were recognised on January 1, 2012 to be in need of better living conditions due to the poor state of their housing will move into their new flats.
We have set the goal to create and modernize 25 million jobs by 2020. This is a very ambitious and difficult challenge, but we can achieve it. We can help people find good, interesting employment. Quality jobs will become the driving force for the growth of wages and well being. That is the most important aspect of our work. We need to revive engineering schools and professional training. Overall, we must pay more attention to working people.
I am instructing the Government Cabinet to develop and implement a national system for evaluating the quality of professional training in the next two years.
I also want to particularly mention the social sector. The specialists working there are known as public-sector employees. However, these people are highly educated and highly qualified, and in terms of their work, their cultural needs and social engagement, they are members of the so-called creative class. This creative class, or if we use the traditional term, the intelligentsia, is comprised, first and foremost, of doctors, teachers, university educators, workers in science and culture; these people are working in every region, in every village, in every city. At the same time, in terms of their incomes, they are still beyond the middle class level and are unable to afford proper vacations or comfortable living conditions, and must constantly seek additional sources of income.
For many years, the government underpaid these specialists, simply because it did not have the means, primarily because we needed to resolve other, more pressing problems such as increasing pensions, because the elderly were in an even worse situation, often living below the poverty line.
Now, we can radically change the situation in the social sectors. I laid out my suggestions in detail in the executive orders I mentioned, as well as my pre-election articles. The executive orders signed in May set the parameters for wage increases for every category of workers in these sectors. I am asking the heads of federal and regional government agencies to mobilize all their resources to implement this goal, and not just because these are our pre-election promises, although that is certainly very important – we must fulfill every promise we made. But even more importantly, if we fulfill this goal, we will be able to solve several key problems at once.
First of all, we will see a significant improvement in the quality of healthcare and education, because new, talented professionals will be drawn to these fields. And current workers in these areas will get the opportunity to focus on their main jobs, improve their training, and not take on additional side jobs and overtime. This is how we hope to eradicate such problems as day-to-day corruption and indifference to one’s responsibilities – everything that so greatly offends and hurts people today.
Second, the number of citizens who classify as members of the middle class will grow significantly – by a quarter. This will be particularly noticeable in the regions. We will support the revival of provincial intelligentsia, which was once Russia’s professional and moral backbone.
Third, professional communities of medical workers, educators, scientists and cultural workers will gain a new impetus for development. These communities must become the core of a competent and active civil society. It is fundamentally important for society to have the opportunity to objectively assess the state of science and the social sector.
I am asking the Government Cabinet, jointly with the Presidential Executive Office, to put together suggestions on creating a system for publicly monitoring the quality of healthcare, education, results of academic research and the need for cultural institutions by April of next year. First and foremost, we must attract professionals to these lines of work, and to look at international best practices.
Let me stress that it would be incorrect to perceive the program of professional development support as simply increasing everyone’s wages equally, without taking into account the qualifications and the actual input of each and every worker. Every organization – medical, educational, scientific – must create its own program for development and personnel renewal.
In this respect, I would also like to say the following. All of us (I do not know anybody who would be against this) speak about the need to restructure various sectors, but as soon as the restructuring process begins, we hear people complaining: this should not be touched, that should not be approached. We must avoid and eliminate this. If we understand what needs to be done, then we must do it, but at the same time, we must do it wisely. Here, I must agree with everyone who feels this work should be carried out in constant dialogue with the professional communities; we must always explain our policies. I am also asking media executives and leading journalists to give particular attention to the transformations happening in these areas – this is a highly important nationwide challenge.
I am confident that growth of wages will attract top-graduates to education, healthcare and science sectors. Indeed, we are already seeing the beginning of this process. In the last three years, medical universities have taken the lead with the highest average Final School Exam [EGE] score among their applicants, leaving economics and law departments behind. This year, we have seen a significant change in the knowledge level of applicants to teaching professions. The number of talented, well-advanced school graduates who have enrolled in pedagogical universities has increased significantly.
Colleagues, today, in our cities and villages, we are seeing the results of what has been happening in our nation, in society, in schools, in the media, and in our heads for the past fifteen to twenty years. And this is understandable. That was the time when we discarded all ideological slogans of the previous era. But unfortunately, many moral guides have been lost too. We ended up throwing out the baby with the bath water. Today, this is often manifested in people’s indifference to public affairs, willingness to tolerate corruption, brazen greed, manifestations of extremism and offensive behavior. And all of this occasionally takes an ugly, aggressive, provocative form; I’ll go even further and say that it creates long-term threats to the society, security and even integrity of Russia.
It is painful for me to say this, but I must say it. Today, Russian society suffers from apparent deficit of spiritual values such as charity, empathy, compassion, support and mutual assistance. A deficit of things that have always, throughout our entire history, made us stronger and more powerful; these are the things we have always been proud of.
We must wholeheartedly support the institutions that are the carriers of traditional values, which have historically proven their ability to pass these values from generation to generation.
The law can protect morality and should do so, but a law cannot instil morality. Attempts by the government to encroach on people’s beliefs and views are a manifestation of totalitarianism. This would be completely unacceptable to us and we do not plan to follow that path. We must not follow the path of prohibition and limitations, but instead, we must secure a firm spiritual and moral foundation for our society. That is precisely why issues of general education, culture and youth policy are so significant. These areas are not just a collection of services; rather, first and foremost, they are the environments for creating a moral, harmonious person, a responsible Russian citizen.
Friends, we must acknowledge that schools’ influence on shaping children and adolescents has grown weaker in recent years. They now have some powerful competitors: the Internet and the electronic media. The parents and students themselves are now much more demanding and a school must not fall behind its students, the development of society, or the flow of information; instead, it should be well ahead of them all. Schools must regain their absolute value. This means renewing educational content, while of course maintaining our traditions and advantages, such as our fundamental mathematical education, without forgetting the enormous significance of high-quality education in the Russian language, history, literature, the foundations of secular ethics and traditional religions. These subjects have a special role: they form a personality, an individual.
Whether or not a student comes across a talented, dedicated teacher largely determines the formation of his or her personality, his or her future. The education system must be built around strong, gifted teachers. Such teachers should be selected scrupulously, taken care of and supported. Schools do not simply impart a set of knowledge. I think you will agree with me that high-quality school training is impossible without education. I am asking the Government Cabinet to prepare a program for the comprehensive development in schools of educational component, and it must above all be modern.
We must promote technical and artistic creativity, establish summer sports camps and create special educational tourist routes for children. All this should be accessible to every child, regardless of where they live and how much their families earn. Let me point out thatthis falls under the direct responsibility of the Russian Federation’s regions. But clearly, the Government must keep these matters under control.
We should let the wealth of Russian culture guide us. Russia has always been among the nations that not only create their own cultural agenda, but also influence the entire global civilisation. State policy in this area must aim to resolve current societal challenges. We must clearly understand and respond to the needs of modern society, particularly those of youth, and strengthen the traditions of the peoples of Russia.
Our citizens who have made outstanding achievements in the creative sphere, in their work, business, sports and charity must be known in society and supported by the state.
Today, there are many people in Russia who work selflessly on public charity projects. The construction brigade movement is being revived. I think it is important to support such volunteer initiatives. And soon, we will be discussing this in detail at a meeting with members of volunteer organizations.
In order to revive national consciousness, we need to link historical eras and get back to understanding the simple truth that Russia did not begin in 1917, or even in 1991, but rather, that we have a common, continuous history spanning over one thousand years, and we must rely on it to find inner strength and purpose in our national development.
We are nearing the end of 2012, which was declared the Year of Russian History. But this attention to our nation’s history and related educational and scientific projects should not fade away. I am counting on the active work by the recently recreated Russian Historical Society, as well as the Russian Military History Society and the Russian Geographical Society, which has been active now for several years.
I would like to particularly thank the search parties that are restoring the names of heroes for our nation and for their families, honorably interring the remains of soldiers who fell in the Great Patriotic War and caring for war memorials.
At our meetings with search party participants, we spoke about how important it is to preserve the historical military memory of the Fatherland. After all, is it fair that we still do not have a single worthy national monument to the heroes of World War I? Our predecessors called it the great war, but it was undeserving and forgotten and struck from our historical memory and history for political and ideological reasons. Meanwhile, the morale of our Armed Forces is held up by traditions, by a living connection to history, by the examples of bravery and selflessness of our heroes. I feel that we should revive the names of the most renowned regiments, military units and major formations of past eras within the Russian army – both from Soviet times and earlier eras, such as Preobrazhensky ans Semenovsky regiments. The Defense Minister should present corresponding suggestions.
We must value the unique experience passed on to us by our forefathers. For centuries, Russia developed as a multi-ethnic nation (from the very beginning), a civilization-state bonded by the Russian people, Russian language and Russian culture native for all of us, uniting us and preventing us from dissolving in this diverse world.
To the rest of the planet, regardless of our ethnicity, we have been and continue to be one people. I recall one of my meetings with veterans. There were representatives of several ethnicity: Tatars, Ukrainians, Georgians, and ethnic Russians of course. One of the veterans, who was not an ethnic Russian, said, “As far as the entire world is concerned, we are one people, we are Russians.” That was true during the war, and it has always been true.
We treat and will continue to treat with great care and respect every ethnic group, every nation in the Russian Federation. Our diversity has always been and remains the source of our beauty and our strength.
But we must not forget that any nationalism and chauvinism do direct and enormous damage especially to the people and the ethnic group whose interests the nationalists are supposedly defending. That is why there is a grave danger for Russia in all manifestations of “simple and definitive” solutions offered by the nationalists and extremists of various stripes and persuasions. Whatever their slogans, they drag the country towards social decline and disintegration. We must regard attempts to provoke ethnic tensions and religious intolerance as a challenge to the unity of the Russian state and as a threat to all of us. We will not allow the emergence of closed ethnic enclaves in Russia with their informal jurisdiction, existing outside the country’s common legal and cultural norms, and disdainfully disregarding the accepted standards, laws and regulations.
I appeal to the heads of the republics of the Russian Federation, to the governors and mayors of major cities. This is primarily your responsibility. You must work with people on a daily basis, and you must organize this effort to make it effective.
Russia needs new blood. That much is clear. It needs smart, educated, hard-working people who do not just want to make some money here and leave, but want to move to Russia, settle down here and consider this country their homeland. However, the current regulations do not contribute to this goal. Quite the contrary. The process of obtaining citizenship for our compatriots, for those who are culturally and spiritually close to Russia is difficult and outrageously bureaucratic. At the same time it is very simple to import unskilled labor, including illegally.
I ask you to develop a simplified procedure for granting Russian citizenship to our compatriots, the bearers of the Russian language and Russian culture, the direct descendants of those who were born in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, for those who want to take up permanent residence in our country and, therefore, to give up their current citizenship.
At the same time I consider it reasonable and necessary to toughen penalties against illegal immigration and violations of registration rules. The relevant amendments have already been submitted to the State Duma. I ask the deputies to pass these laws.
I would like to make another proposal. We still allow citizens of CIS states to enter the Russian Federation using their national passports. Enough time has passed and all CIS states have become firmly established. It is almost impossible to ensure effective immigration control when foreign citizens can enter the country using their national passports. I believe that beginning from no later than 2015 entry into Russia should only be possible for bearers of international passports.
I ask the relevant agencies to work on this matter together with our colleagues in the Commonwealth. We do not want to create problems for anyone. If necessary, we can provide them with assistance and support, including financial and technical. It is a simple matter of issuing documents. We must adopt the practice of many of our neighbors and strategic partners around the world. We can provide technical and financial assistance, if needed.
At the same time, the current regulations will remain in force for citizens of the Customs Union and Common Economic Space, who will enjoy the simplified rules for crossing the border within the territory of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space.
The role of public institutions is extremely important in immigration policy matters. In this regard, I consider it correct to broaden the powers of national and cultural autonomous, to provide them with federal grants for the implementation of program for the legal, social and cultural adaptation of immigrants. This experience has shown to be effective in many countries.
I also ask the Government Cabinet to submit proposals for the implementation of distance learning programm in Russian. It should be available for young people in the CIS and for our compatriots all over the world. It is important to support schools in the CIS and in other states which teach in Russian, including by providing support for the teachers, help with textbooks and equipment. We should create a system of international school competitions in the Russian language. The winners should be granted admission to the leading Russian universities.
Colleagues, I would like to address especially those of you who work in this field. I believe we should strive to ensure that quality education in Russian is available globally. In general, we should talk about ways to expand Russia’s presence in the global humanitarian, informational and cultural space.
Democracy is the only political choice for Russia. I would like to stress that we share the universal democratic principles adopted worldwide. However, Russia’s democracy means the power of the Russian people with their own traditions of self-rule and not the fulfillment of standards imposed on us from the outside. Democracy means compliance with and respect for laws, rules and regulations. The ruling parties, governments and presidents may change but the core of the state and society, the continuity of national development, sovereignty and freedoms of people must remain intact.
Democracy is not only an opportunity to elect power, it’s about being able to monitor it and evaluate the results of its work. We must pay greater attention to the development of direct democracy and self-rule, including the right of popular legislative initiative (I have already talked about this), when an idea that receives public support, including via the Internet, must be considered in Parliament.
In addition, I believe members of the Federation Council and State Duma deputies must be given the right to initiate legislation in the regional legislatures. Thus, we will strengthen the connection between federal laws and the life of the regions and each legislator.
Political competition is important for the country. At the same time, we must establish a kind of code of fair political competition.
There are several points I would like to make in this regard.
First. Russia’s unity, integrity and sovereignty are unconditional. Any manifestations of separatism and nationalism must be completely removed from the political agenda.
Second. Any direct or indirect foreign interference in our internal political processes is unacceptable. Anyone who receives money from abroad for his or her political activities, thus serving certain foreign national interests, cannot be a politician in the Russian Federation.
Third. There can be no place in politics for criminals. This should become standard practice for all political forces. Of course, people will say that it is already against the law for criminals to take part in politics. Yes, it is against the law but they still try to enter the political arena, sometimes receiving help, and this should not happen.
Fourth. Civilized dialogue is possible only with those political forces that make, justify and articulate their demands in a civilized way, defending them in compliance with the law. The change and modernization of the political system are natural and even necessary, but I have said in the past that it would be inadmissible to allow for the destruction of the state to satisfy this thirst for change. The whole history of Russia screams about it.
Fifth. The state must and will seek to ensure equal access to the media for all political parties, and not only during election campaigns but at all times. However, this is not an easy task, as I am sure you realize. We had seven political parties at the beginning of this year, and now we have 48, if I am not mistaken, plus there are over 200 organizing committees working to establish their own political parties. Nevertheless, the authorities must strive to ensure that all of them enjoy equal rights. Many political parties and experts propose that we return to a mixed system of State Duma elections – to party lists and single-mandate voting districts, which, of course, will have to be established first. I agree with this, let’s go back to this system.
Some people talk about restoring the electoral blocs’ right to participate in elections. Let’s think about this matter separately. It requires a detailed discussion, consideration and analysis. I am convinced that this can make our political system more fair, open and competitive, and will satisfy the society’s demand for new leaders in politics and the government, a demand for outstanding and independent people.
Russia is characterized by a tradition of a strong state. Therefore, the main public demands are addressed to the state: to guarantee civil rights and justice, to reduce violence and social inequality, to restore order in the housing and utilities sector, and so on.
Poor government efficiency and corruption are major problems that everyone can see. We will never be able to tackle the challenges facing our society and our nation without quality, modern public administration, and without a high level of personal responsibility of everyone involved in it.
The following principles should be the key to the new model of public administration.
First. All parts of the state mechanism and all levels of government must be oriented towards a result that is measurable, transparent and understandable to the public.
Second. There must be extensive introduction of new forms and methods of control. Public opinion must become the main criterion for assessing the effectiveness of state bodies that provide public services as well as institutions in the social sphere.
Third. Effective motivation of municipal employees: competitive salaries, a system of moral, financial and career incentives to encourage continuous improvement in the work of state bodies. At the same time, personal liability must be increased dramatically, up to and including temporary disqualification.
This means that not only can an official found guilty of negligence be dismissed from office, but he or she can also be banned from engaging in this activity for a certain period of time.
Fourth. When we criticize public officials I would like us to bear in mind that the vast majority of employees in various state bodies are honest and responsible people. This is a special responsibility for those who take on a number of legal and ethical obligations and restrictions. We must not forget that. But if a person has chosen public service, he or she should be ready for these restrictions, for public scrutiny and special requirements, as is the case in almost all countries around the world. How can the public have confidence in an official or politician who says high-sounding words about the national good but at the same time tries to take his money and assets out of the country?
I ask you to support legislative proposals limiting the rights of state officials and politicians to hold foreign accounts, stocks and shares. (Applause.) Hold your applause, you may not like what is coming. (Laughter.) This requirement should apply to all officials who are in charge of key decisions: the top leaders of state and government, the senior staff in the Presidential Executive Office and their immediate families. It should also apply to members of the Federation Council and State Duma deputies.
As for the ownership of foreign real estate, it must be declared in accordance with the law, and the official must submit a report on the cost of the property and the origin of the funds used to purchase it.
Fifth. Control over agencies exercising regulatory oversight requires special attention. According to various estimates, about one million people are employed in these bodies, which is comparable to the number of doctors or teachers in the country.
I ask the Government Cabinet to submit proposals on ways to reshape the key functions of oversight agencies. Oversight is undoubtedly one of the key government functions. However, it is unacceptable when performance indicators for oversight agencies are not based on the result, but on the number of investigations.
It is essential to introduce public reports by oversight agencies about the results of investigations, as well as the financial and human resources used to conduct them. That will clearly show the cost of each investigation and even whether it is necessary at all.
We will certainly continue to combat corruption, which is a threat to national development prospects. I would like to stress that businesses must never enjoy any privileges based on their proximity to the executive, legislative or judicial government bodies at any level.
To Be Continued…
Windows to Russia…
- Putin Seeks Tighter CIS Passport Rules (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Putin Targets Transparency of Offshore Companies (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Putin Supports Media Ban on Ethnicity of Suspects (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Putin Calls for ‘Adequate’ Response to Magnitsky Act (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Putin Slams ‘Foreign Interference’ in Russian Politics (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Putin Pledges Control Over Officials’ Spending (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Putin: Re-Educating Youth Is Answer to Russia’s Moral Crisis (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Putin Tackles Demographic ‘Crisis’ in Address (news.windowstorussia.com)