Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Federation Council Chairperson Valentina Matviyenko
29 september 2011
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Vladimir Putin: Ms Matviyenko, you’ve already begun work in your new capacity. Of course, there are always a lot of problems that someone working in government needs to address, and the Federation Council is no exception. All of our initiatives pass through the Federation Council, so we should carry on with the same practices that were followed under the house’s previous Speaker. Let’s lay out our mid-term priorities today and identify milestones in the legislative work that needs to be done in the months ahead.
Valentina Matviyenko: You’re right, Mr Putin. It’s true that the Federation Council has good contacts with the Cabinet, as well as with the ministries and other government agencies. Most members of the Federation Council possess high qualifications and expertise in a wide variety of areas. And I believe we should tap more deeply into this potential. As you know, the upper house is a chamber that represents the regions, so in our legislative work we will try to be mindful of the interests of individual Russian regions, and to arrange expert examinations on the ground, so that the bills we adopt can better reflect regional interests.
Members of the Federation Council have taken an active part in preparing the draft budgets for 2012, 2013 and 2014. The Finance Ministry has accepted most of our proposals, but there are issues that have yet to be finalised in order for relations between the federal centre and the regions to become more balanced.
We are closely involved in the current decentralisation reforms. As you know, there are two commissions that are coordinating this in the Cabinet. I would appreciate your support of our proposal to have the Federation Council play a more central coordinating role in creating a combined pool for regional initiatives. We set up an ad hoc group in our opening session, and are now trying to generalise proposals that have come in from the regions, working in close contact with the Cabinet’s commissions. The important thing is to accomplish this work in a meaningful way such that authority can be distributed across different levels of government in such a way as to best serve the current push toward decentralisation.
Secondly, we should ensure that the responsibilities and powers that are to be handed over to the regions are well-balanced in terms of providing permanent sources of finance. Unfortunately, authority is often delegated to regional governments along with the provision of one-time subsidies or compensations from the Finance Ministry. This funding ends after a while, but the responsibilities remain. We are currently negotiating with the Finance Ministry about the possibility of providing permanent sources of finance, whether at the regional or municipal level. We will proactively pursue this as well.
I consider it to be very important that the Federation Council should work more closely with both the Cabinet and the State Duma during the initial stage of the legislative process, from the so-called “zero” reading onwards, and that it should carefully monitor all regional amendments. There has been ongoing work in this area for some time now, but I believe it’s time we stepped it up. This will allow us to avoid controversies while simultaneously allowing the Federation Council to adopt bills in a more meaningful way, since it will be directly involved in the drafting process.
According to Federation Council MPs, bills are often raw when they come in. We believe that the house should act as a filter for such bills, sending some off to conciliatory commissions and vetoing others. This way, we would be able to ensure that all laws that make it through the Federation Council are impeccable –that is, are consistent with all relevant regulatory norms.
I’m committed to preserving the entirety of the valuable and useful legacy of the Federation Council. [With this in mind], I conduct frequent meetings with committee chairpersons and individual MPs.
On the other hand, the inner workings of the Federation Council need to be updated. We are discussing this openly, and have agreed to prepare blueprints for modernising our work and increasing its efficiency as, in my view, we have too many redundant commissions… This approach has been approved by both the house’s governing board and its rank-and-file members.
We have elections coming up this December. In many of the regional parliaments (28 regional legislatures and 28 Federation Council MPs), some of the members will stay on while others will be replaced.
We’ve agreed to hold a conference on the 11th that will bring together the state secretaries of all the ministries and departments. At this forum, we will discuss our further cooperation, including ways in which to make it more meaningful, as well as major priority bills that are currently being drafted by the Cabinet and will soon be submitted [to parliament]. It looks as though the current session will be a busy one.
Currently, there are 500 bills in the Duma that are up for consideration, with 70 marked as high priority. We are well aware of the importance of the new draft laws on public health and education, among others, and so we’re cooperating with the State Duma to secure support for those bills in the Federation Council.
Tomorrow we will meet with (State Duma Speaker) Boris Gryzlov. We’re planning to discuss ways in which to build more proper relations between the Federation Council and the State Duma. Unfortunately, many of the motions put forward by Federation Council MPs (it is members of the upper house who enjoy this privilege) are rejected by the State Duma. This arouses legitimate discontent among the authors, who have poured time into drafting their bills and discussing them in the provinces. I think the problem is the result of a lack of normal interaction. This is something that should be arranged at both the committee and leadership level. I am fully confident that we will resolve this problem.
In general, the situation is normal. We realise that the country has entered a highly charged political season. The Federation Council, as a chamber of regional representation, works without pause. We are aware of our responsibility to maintain stability in the country in order that this busy political season goes off smoothly. We are committed to this, and are willing to take an active part in it.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Matviyenko, as for the inner workings of the Federation Council and the layout of its governing bodies and committees, it’s up to the house to decide. You should only make sure that your decisions do not lead to any failures during deliberations. There are a lot of bills that are going to pass through the State Duma toward the end of this autumn session. And, as you were right to point out, we expect the Federation Council to consider all relevant issues carefully, meticulously and competently, and to filter out anything of poor quality. Of course, the Federation Council should have the final say on the bills. But I hope that no technical breakdowns occur during the final deliberations.
Valentina Matviyenko: We will be sure to take our time, Mr Putin. We’re currently holding discussions with Federation Council members about what kind of inner parliamentary system is most efficient. We’ll be restructuring the house step by step, avoiding any abrupt changes. Everyone (in the house) has agreed on the necessity to bring about such reform, and to adjust our priorities to conform with the new tasks set to us by the country’s leadership.
Vladimir Putin: Okay, let’s now go over the lawmaking schedule.