Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev holds meeting with the leaders of the United Russia Party
11 july 2012
Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, first of all, I wanted to meet with you and to discuss current issues. Before we get down to business, I would like to thank the United Russia parliamentary group for taking a number of rather difficult decisions recently, including the July 10 ratification of the protocol on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation.
I would like to remind you that Russia has wanted to join the WTO since 1993. Naturally, this has not been the easiest decision to take. It was fraught with procedural problems (which everyone tackled) and, naturally, with political battles and appeals to various agencies, including the courts. But I am confident that in the long run it will allow us to make more effective use of Russia's competitive advantages on the international market and naturally to develop the domestic market. We will pass the appropriate bills in order to mitigate some of the problems associated with Russia's accession to the WTO. The government accordingly will also draft and submit a range of solutions. On the whole, I consider this to be a highly important and long-awaited step.
I would also like to thank you for taking decisions on the government's special powers for this pre-storm or pre-crisis period. This is because the situation on the international markets is extremely unclear, and the relevant decisions, which have been adopted, and which will probably be adopted, will make it possible to better, more effectively use our current capabilities, but at the same time, of course, subject to the regulations and procedures of our parliament. It is my opinion that parliament should be a powerful lever for monitoring how funding is spent, including crisis management funds.
Naturally, work to develop the political system is quite important, including those initiatives which were approved some time ago, and which have in effect already come into force. By this I mean the simplified registration of political parties, launched by me when I was president, and the initiative on gubernatorial elections.
All this is now being transferred into the area of real political work. Plus some other initiatives, including the latest initiatives to improve the activities of non-profit organisations and to update legislation on public associations. This work is also quite complicated, the first steps were taken some time ago when we started supporting the so-called socially oriented, non-profit organisations. I believe that this work should continue.
At the same time, we must restore order in the whole area where non-commercial organisations operate. We need to allocate money in order to support various organisations. The president announced a relevant initiative yesterday. He has called and asked the government to find additional resources for this purpose amounting to three billion roubles. I have instructed the government and the Ministry of Finance. Although the situation is quite complicated, this funding will be allocated in order to support Russia’s non-profit organisations. I wanted to tell you this because there is much talk about Russia’s non-profit organisations finding themselves in a very difficult situation after a number of documents get approved. In the first place, this is not the case. And secondly, the state will provide real support for the work of non-profit organisations, which is useful and positive for Russia.
And, of course, it is very important that the government and the United Russia parliamentary party, the main political force inside the State Duma, maintain systematic, open and active relations. That is the purpose of the Open Government platform. I believe that United Russia should use this platform, all the more so since United Russia created the so-called Open Platform to ensure the free discussion of specific bills prior to their examination by members of parliament. This is quite useful for the party and for dialogue with other parties, whose representatives now work on almost half of the 29 State Duma committees. On the whole, I hope that the coordinated work of the Open Government, on the one hand, and the Open Platform, on the other, will help improve the quality of legislative work. I would like you perhaps to say a few words about the best ways of creating this kind of cooperation, because it seems to me that this would be useful.
There is another issue we need to discuss, quite an important one for our party’s image – party projects, because none of the other political forces can boast the same achievements as United Russia. I am referring to the construction of sports and leisure facilities, the 500 Swimming Pools programme, the New Roads programme and the kindergartens programme. These kinds of programmes have been synonymous with United Russia for some time now, and I hope that they will continue.
Naturally we need to pay attention to the current situation, and to all the problems and incidents that are happening in the country. I believe that the party is perfectly capable of occupying a worthy position in this respect to help the people of Russia cope with the problems that occur from time to time.
So that is our agenda. We don’t have much time because we have to meet our Cuban friends. So let’s get to work. Mr Vorobyov (addressing Andrei Vorobyov), over to you.
Andrei Vorobyov (Leader of the United Russia parliamentary party in the State Duma): Mr Medvedev, thank you for your assessment of the work of our parliamentary party, your opinion is very important for us. We realise that we are one presidential team: you are the leader of the United Russia party, and the overall result naturally depends on our constructive and well-coordinated work.
We realised during the presidential and State Duma election campaigns that we need to implement all promises and pledges rather quickly and to a high quality. This requires teamwork and understanding on the part of all the bodies of power.
I want to brief you, Mr Medvedev, on the tragic events in Kuban last weekend. Yesterday we created an inter-party group, which is currently operating in three towns, Gelendzhik, Novorossiysk and Krymsk. The party has opened a public reception office there and is working there, so that we can monitor all the concerns of the population both now and during the reconstruction period.
We know that the government will play a key role in the reconstruction, and this period will be very intensive and serious. And we would like to be close by and contribute to this work.
As for the number and quality of draft laws, there are two sets of tools that you mentioned. The Open Government and the Open Platform make it possible to discuss them with absolute openness and with the participation not only of experts, but also anyone interested in various areas, non-profit organisations, people who want to express their own opinions. I think this format will allow us to ensure the quality of draft laws, meaning they will be more powerful and relevant.
Today we have convened this group of activists, Mr Medvedev, to discuss the format for cooperation (each of us is responsible for a specific area), and possibly to get answers to the questions that we want to ask.
Dmitry Medvedev: I’ll ask you some questions too that are of concern to me as the party leader and prime minister.
I think it is necessary to hold these types of meetings, all the more so since during my visit to the State Duma and at the time of my appointment as prime minister, we agreed to hold regular meetings, but we also need broader meetings, not just with the leadership of the parliamentary party. However it’s only fitting to meet with the leadership of the parliamentary party because these events are easily organised since they do not need a huge amount of preparations.
In the last two months I have visited a number of regions and, as we agreed, met with our party activists in each region. Mr Neverov attended practically all these meetings. This was extremely useful: first, you can really assess the state of the party, and second, it gave us the chance to listen to the concerns of local people because… Who are the core group of the party? It’s not just the party bosses, it’s ordinary people who are engaged in everyday activities: doctors, teachers, heads of local agricultural enterprises, small businesses. I think I’ll continue to use this practice in the future. As part of our work and consultations between the government and the State Duma and with the participation of the parliamentary parties and the leadership of the leading parliamentary party we can discuss current problems that crop up in specific regions. I think this would be useful for you too, especially since you regularly visit your regions and get local information. Mr Neverov (to Sergei Neverov), don’t you?
Sergei Neverov (Secretary of the United Russia General Council): Yes, I do.
Andrei Vorobyov: Mr Medvedev, maybe we should propose or recommend an open discussion of initiatives on the regional platforms, the format that you proposed…
Dmitry Medvedev: Please do.
Andrei Vorobyov: … so that legislative initiatives can be discussed in the most comprehensible way.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes let’s do that. I think that’s fine. But you know what else we could do? I think it would useful, in the format of interaction between the Open Government and the Open Platform, to invite to a roundtable the authors of some legislative initiatives, representatives from our parliamentary party, representatives from other parliamentary parties (there are no problems with this, we want to work together with everybody) and ministers, for example; let them share their positions in an honest discussion. However, our parliamentary party has a special mission, because it participates in the formation of the government and is responsible for the state of affairs in the State Duma and ultimately for the situation in Russia as a whole, given the role of the United Russia party. I think this could be a useful format. Let’s hold such an event.
Andrei Vorobyov: One more brief remark. After the government was formed – here, at this meeting we see deputy speakers, heads of key committees – we easily and rapidly established collaboration with ministers and deputy ministers on specific areas to maintain the constant functioning of these links. And this exchange of information, attending meetings and discussions will also contribute…
Dmitry Medvedev: I think this would be useful for even… Everyone has their own views and perceptions of the situation in the country. We should not strive for unanimity: that’s just not right. And when they say sometimes: “The parliamentary party says one thing and the government another.” That’s perfectly normal: it’s nothing to be afraid of. However ministers and parliamentary parties’ representatives should find a final position on the key issues and promote it as a unified position. That is the right thing to do. And if someone out there has their own concept on how to spend funds or regulate certain processes in the country, that’s perfectly normal. The State Duma is a separate branch of power (nobody including those who follow the political process should forget that), the legislative power. With this understanding, I propose to continue. Mr Neverov, please go ahead.
Sergei Neverov: Yes, Mr Medvedev. You were right to say that when visiting the regions and meeting with party activists, people are crying out to communicate, to talk to people at every level, including with State Duma deputies. Summer is ahead of us; State Duma deputies now have the task of working actively in the regions. First, we will have elections in October – we will elect five regional governors (after a lengthy period), we will elect deputies of six legislative assemblies, seven administrative centres…
Dmitry Medvedev: Are we going to win, Mr Neverov?
Sergei Neverov: We intend to. We are gearing our party activists up to win, and this work is currently being conducted among the deputies.
Dmitry Medvedev: The last elections to the municipal bodies, which were held in a far more resonant political arena, showed that the United Russia party has very good political potential. I specifically talked with parliamentary group leaders, with the leadership of party organisations and the United Russia General Council and asked them to pass on my warm congratulations because it really has become harder to win. Which makes victory all the more precious.
Sergei Neverov: Thank you. I want to say that our campaign is being waged constantly. On July 8, we elected heads of 17 rural districts and other areas. To date United Russia has won in 12 districts out of 17, which is quite a high level. Only one representative of a different party (the Communist Party) won in one of the regions.
Remark: There was a six-vote gap.
Sergei Neverov: Yes, a six-vote gap. It was quite a struggle. The campaign that lies ahead of us... we are working actively with the deputies, to get them to go to the regions and explain our position and the laws that have been adopted, including the ones on NGOs, demonstrations and accession to the WTO. It is very important to explain the decisions that have been adopted on increasing tariffs on July 1 and excise duties on alcohol. We want to make sure people know why this is being done. It’s important that people understand and learn about it straight from the horse’s mouth. We want our deputies to answer any questions that people might have with regard to these sensitive issues.
Dmitry Medvedev: I believe everyone knows our goal. It’s to reduce the consumption of alcohol.
Sergei Neverov: That’s our main goal.
Dmitry Medvedev: It’s a national tragedy.
Sergei Neverov: There’s too much counterfeit alcohol on the market…
Dmitry Medvedev: I believe that the party should adopt a straightforward position here. There’s no doubt that you will receive the support of the majority of the population, especially women.
Sergei Neverov: That’s exactly how we are positioning ourselves. Mr Medvedev, you touched on projects that are of interest to all Russian regions, such as the 500 swimming pools, the sports and recreation centres and kindergartens. People across the country keep asking us whether these projects will be followed through. With regard to the pools, you are absolutely right, 480,000 students have already got the opportunity to be involved in swimming.
Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Neverov, thank you for reminding me of this. As you are all aware, I visited the Kuril Islands recently. I want everyone in this audience to know that, as they used to say in Soviet times, the party and the government are grateful to you for your support. The Kuril Islands are unquestionably a very important part of the Russian territory. It is badly underfunded, but is now making much better progress due to our recent actions. Your words reminded me that I promised them that a recreation centre would be built on the islands. I would like to ask the party to keep track of this. One complex should be built on Kunashir and the other one on Shikotan. Please get in touch with the regional authorities and find out all the specifications, such as swimming pools, etc.
Sergei Neverov: We absolutely will. These complexes will have different amenities: one will have a swimming pool, the other one will have an ice…
Dmitry Medvedev: They also want an ice rink. They want many things there now, perhaps, that’s good.
Sergei Neverov: We will definitely talk with them. I just wanted to say that we have opened 326 sports and recreation centres there and it’s important to keep up this process and follow it through to completion. We realise that the financial resources are limited and some projects may have to fold. However, we would like the government to look into these projects and keep them going.
Dmitry Medvedev: I will definitely issue the relevant directive, because these projects are very important, and not only because they are related to the party, but also because they relate to the absolute majority of our regions and the people who live there. By the way, I believe we should think about implementing several such projects in Krymsk and other places that have been damaged by the floods and the ensuing humanitarian disasters, so that these areas can be rehabilitated.
Sergei Neverov: There is one more important project that has always been a priority for the party: roads. We are actively working with legislators in the Russian regions to make sure they also treat it as a priority, especially now that regional road funds are being established. This project covers courtyards and rural and urban roads that need to be funded and built. Many regions are focusing a lot on these issues. We will make sure that this work is treated as a priority when they adopt regional budgets.
Dmitry Medvedev: All right, thank you. Mr Zheleznyak, there are rumours that you have destroyed the whole internet in Russia. Is that true? Please level with us. There are protests, and people are saying that United Russia is against the internet.
Sergei Zheleznyak (Deputy Secretary of the United Russia General Council): Mr Medvedev, I was about to say that it’s important now not only to address internet-related legislation in a meaningful way, but also to provide active information support for these processes, because there are too many conjectures and ungrounded fears. It is very important that we act in collaboration with the government, because we cannot limit ourselves to technical or legal issues. We should also explain the political reasons behind our decisions. Most of the questions get answered as soon as we start telling people that this bill only relates to children and harmful information and that restrictions will only apply to the dissemination of child pornography, drug abuse and the promotion of teenage suicides. Surprisingly, 90% of the people who are discussing this law haven’t even seen it.
Dmitry Medvedev: That’s usual. No one ever reads Pasternak, but like all Soviet people, we disapprove of his writings.
Sergei Zheleznyak: Therefore, I believe that we must provide information support for our legislative activities.
Speaking about internet regulations in general, I think it’s appropriate to apply the rules and legal relations that exist in real life to the legal relations that exist in the virtual world, so that it’s not a lawless space, but one based on freedom and respect for the individual, individual rights, individual responsibilities. In fact, this approach finds support among the majority of socially responsible industry players, because they don’t want reputational risks related to posting illegal content affecting the amount of investment they receive. This is a far more important consideration for them than some occasional yelling and screaming.
Dmitry Medvedev: I see. I want you to be aware of my position, although we keep in touch and there are appropriate documents prepared by various departments. First, the general approach is that the internet must be free. Secondly, the web should operate in accordance with a set of rules that mankind has yet to work out. This is the most complicated part, because we can’t regulate everything, but by the same token we can’t leave things unregulated. Thirdly, basic rights and freedoms, such as the right to information, must be upheld, but internet users should also have the right to be protected against harmful content. Fourthly, I believe it’s very important to protect online content with copyright regulations. Perhaps in a different way from how it’s done offline, because the internet is a special place, so accordingly there should be special rules. I submitted a set of rules for consideration by the Group of 20. Unfortunately, our partners aren’t moving forward in this area as fast as we would like them to. I would like the party to promote corresponding proposals that I have come up with at the international level too, because copyright must be protected online as well. Finally, all kinds of online violations and harmful content must be addressed using internationally approved procedures. Take for instance the latest revised version of the law that is pending adoption. When is it due? (addressing Sergei Zheleznyak).
Sergei Zheleznyak: It’s going through its second and third reading today.
Dmitry Medvedev: I see. This law is precisely about the important role of the judiciary when it comes to deciding what’s legal and what’s not. This is how we are going to get a working, civil and legal environment for regulating online processes, is that right?
Sergei Zheleznyak: Yes.
Dmitry Medvedev: Agreed. How are you (addressing Alexander Zhukov) doing in the State Duma? Are you missing your work in the government?
Alexander Zhukov (deputy head of the United Russia parliamentary group in the State Duma): There’s no time to be bored at the State Duma because we have a lot of very important government initiatives to consider. You mentioned one of them, the approach to making the budget for next year and some anti-crisis measures. We all understand full well that next year’s budget will be a difficult one and the budget rule proposed by the government is quite tough, and this promises a fairly stormy discussion of the budget. Even so, we have supported it as well as the anti-crisis measures; the law is up for its second reading just today. And we are grateful to the government for including the anti-crisis measures in the Duma discussions.
Dmitry Medvedev: I said it initially, and I would like to stress again that the government has a keen interest in the State Duma using all its law-making and oversight potential within the existing budget rules, and you should make no mistake about that.
Alexander Zhukov: Yes. We have proposed, if some urgent anti-crisis measures are needed, setting up a special commission composed partly of State Duma deputies and partly of Federation Council members. It could, together with the government, promptly approve anti-crisis measures that could be implemented as part of the package proposed by the government, with subsequent discussion of the results, rather like we did during the previous crisis.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, we have experience. In fact you were directly involved as a government member.
Alexander Zhukov: I think it’s important that the responsibility for implementing anti-crisis measures be shared between the government and the State Duma, and United Russia deputies must be fully engaged in that process as well. Just like the discussion on the budget, it is very important that government programmes, state programmes and federal targeted programmes come in for a detailed and active discussion at the State Duma from the point of view of their content. Because it seems to me that things like the healthcare and education modernisation programmes that have been initiated and that will be carried on by the government must be subject to a detailed discussion and consideration at the State Duma. And I think our parties have a big contribution to make because they know the situation on the ground very well. We are talking about the projects that are part of the federal targeted programmes and about programmes that are part of federal targeted investment programmes. I think this kind of interaction with Open Government and at the State Duma would be very appropriate and productive.
Dmitry Medvedev: Regarding additional programmes, just for you to get an idea of the pace we have set. Of course we cannot consider absolutely all the programmes before the end of the year because there are too many of them, but we will by all means consider some of the key programmes. And I would like you to take an active part in that.
Alexander Zhukov: Yes, Mr Medvedev. We would like to start the discussion during the course of the two readings of the budget as early as this week. Our parliamentary party has set up a special group which will begin this conversation on the follow-up to the party programmes which you have mentioned: and I am referring to the building of fitness centres, and roads, in short, all the programmes that must definitely be continued. We do have proposals for next year’s budget.
Dmitry Medvedev: Very well.
Alexander Zhukov: I hope that we will start this discussion tomorrow. At least we have agreed to start the discussion with the Finance Ministry.
Another issue is tax policy. In the past the government first approved tax policy guidelines and only then submitted them to the Duma. We would like to have preliminary discussions with the deputies. I believe that would be helpful.
Dmitry Medvedev: Let us do it that way.
Alexander Zhukov: And the last question I would like to touch on. It is true that today we have serious concerns not only about the federal budget but also about the regional budgets: many regions rely so heavily on loans that we need to look for ways to strengthen the tax base in the regions. We have set up a task force at a meeting of the parliamentary parties to conduct a review of all the tax deductions at the federal level and also at the regional and local levels. We would like to do this in cooperation with the government. I think there is considerable room for improving the state of our finances in this area.
Dmitry Medvedev: Very well. Who will you work with?
Alexander Zhukov: Well, with Andrei Makarov as chairman of the Budget Committee. And above all of course we work with the Finance Minister. And also Igor Shuvalov with whom we have discussed amendments to the anti-crisis package…
Dmitry Medvedev: All right, I will pass it on to them. I think they’re in a constructive mood, so you’ll find a common language since you have worked together a lot. All right, it’s agreed.
Now Lyudmila Shvetsova, how is Moscow faring? It has become bigger.
Lyudmila Shvetsova (Deputy head of United Russia Party at the State Duma): I watch how Moscow is doing from the eighth floor of the building at Okhotny Ryad. Incidentally, it’s a beautiful view; my office didn’t have such a view.
Dmitry Medvedev: Moscow is a beautiful city, but it’s grown very large. We should help Moscow develop its newly incorporated areas. This is of course not only about transferring the administrative centre, that’s just one thing, though an important one. I am referring to the overall policy of creating new communities in the sense of relocation, new neighbourhoods, new districts.
Lyudmila Shvetsova: It’s interesting work.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, it’s a massive and serious task and of course it calls for a solution for social problems because the number of social institutions in the region, and indeed the quality, has traditionally lagged behind those of Moscow.
Lyudmila Shvetsova: I absolutely agree with you because when I was still working in Moscow I visited all the communities that are being incorporated and I saw with my own eyes the difference between the situation there and in the city. Of course they must be improved in many ways.
Mr Medvedev, with your permission, I will say a few words about the social problems. Our party at the Duma naturally bears special responsibility for the adoption of the social laws because they are the most sensitive for the public: people react strongly to these laws. So I would like to draw your attention to and perhaps seek your advice on three such laws.
First, the law on education. You are thoroughly conversant on this subject. The concept was proposed back in 2009 and the first version of the law appeared in 2010. You remember the stormy discussion it provoked among the public: more than 6,000 comments and proposals came in. Now the fifth version is under discussion. In my opinion it is more or less balanced, normal. I looked at all the comments that we received. They are mainly smaller adjustments, no fundamental proposals. In our opinion, that bill is ready to be introduced, and in any case you are due to discuss it at the government meeting on 26 July. You will probably send it to the Duma. And we would ask you not to prompt us to push it through quickly. We also want to hold parliamentary discussions and public hearings and use the party as a place to discuss it, especially since an alternative law was submitted by the Communists in February.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes.
Lyudmila Shvetsova: It is a voluminous law, we have read it. I will not praise or criticise it today, but the fact remains that…
Dmitry Medvedev: But it probably contains some rational ideas?
Lyudmila Shvetsova: Of course it does. Moreover, they go down very well with the public…
Dmitry Medvedev: Well, it behooves them as Communists to turn on people.
Lyudmila Shvetsova: Of course, that’s what Communists are expected to do. So we would like to be given some time. I think that we will certainly work it out by March, but we need time to go through all the procedures, in fact we have been inviting all the constituent entities and putting them in the picture even before the debates on the law begin.
The second law has to do with culture. The law came from the Duma: Mr Ivliyev, who is now Deputy Minister, and a group of others, drew up this law. Frankly, while the law is very interesting as an encyclopedic handbook on culture, it absolutely…
Dmitry Medvedev: …makes no sense.
Lyudmila Shvetsova: Yes, it is meaningless. Anyway, the fact that it was posted on the website for two months and nobody reacted to it speaks volumes about its quality.
Dmitry Medvedev: I agree.
Lyudmila Shvetsova: I think that most probably the new minister, with our participation, with our assistance… The more so since a Council on Culture has been set up under Sergei Naryshkin (State Duma Speaker), we will join this work and I think we’ll come up with a law. So far we are working under the 1992 law. So we urgently need a new law.
And the third law is the law on social services. In my opinion, some effort has gone into this law; specifically the codification of all that has been achieved in the field of social services. But that’s all. It is a technical law, which incidentally, has many errors, some of which are conceptual. For example, it gives little attention to the non-government sector, to volunteers and public-private partnership which, in my opinion, is a promising avenue in terms of developing social services and the social protection and social support system as a whole.
But anyway I would like to thank you for creating a special ministry within the new government. And we should not be complacent by assuming that social security is entirely the business of the regions. They do a lot of adlibbing on that score. We have no minimum standards that every region must comply with, and I think that this ministry must work out the guidelines of the state’s social policy, determine the reference points that we will offer the regions so they can implement them at their level. We are ready to cooperation on this, we are absolutely clear about this task; we must now make social services better targeted and introduce new forms of this very sensitive work. So, more power to the new ministry, as the saying goes, and for the time being this law should be postponed. Maybe a departmental decision…
Dmitry Medvedev: More power to their elbows…
Lyudmila Shvetsova: So these are the documents I would like to have your advice and support on.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you for drawing attention to these documents; they are very important. I agree that the law on education must be of high quality, it is necessary to take into account all the rational amendments, not populist amendments but those that correspond to the level of education in our country. So, in our discussions we should give it the finishing touches and then put it up for adoption. I made a note of your proposal concerning the timeframe, but we originally proposed a tougher timeframe. Let’s talk about the best way to proceed.
Regarding the law on culture, your assessment is harsh, and yet I agree with you a hundred percent: we do not need meaningless laws which either enumerate what we have or spell out a set of principles. We proceed from the assumption that laws must have a distinct objective and they should be self-implementing, to use a legal term. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be adopted. Try to change it together with the new minister whom everyone here knows very well and with the people who work with him.
The law on social services (I recently chaired a meeting, and this was the first meeting I chaired as prime minister, most everyone here was present): we’ll try to upgrade it. There are some thoroughly positive elements and there are also some questions on which I have already received the deputy prime minister for social issues and the minister responsible for these matters, so I agree, and I take note of what you said. We should once again take an unbiased look at this law and I would like you to do that as well.
Olga Batalina (First Deputy Chairperson of the State Duma Committee for Families, Women and Children, Deputy Secretary of the United Russia Party General Council): With your permission, Mr Medvedev, I’d like to follow up on the topic that I raised: family policy and child protection.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, please. Only I have to run in three minutes.
Olga Batalina: It’s just that knowing your fundamental stand on child protection and thanks to the joint work of the Duma and the government… a large block of legislation was passed with unusual speed: restrictions on alcohol advertising on the Internet and not only on the Internet but in other media and the introduction of serious fines for the sale of alcohol to minors. But we still have a lot of work to do, above all the development of priority measures in implementing a national strategy with regard to children. I think this plan should well be on the list of our party’s priorities and could be a serious party concept for the coming years. You know that we are ready to work hard with the government and we would hate this plan to become just a list of current activities at the ministries because this is a topic that is of great concern to absolutely all the Russians. Remembering your own major efforts in this area and the holding of the Year of the Family and the national projects it would be a logical follow-up, so I believe that it could well be our party’s priority. I would like you to support this approach.
Dmitry Medvedev: Incidentally, the Year of the Family went off well. Everybody remembers it. I remember it and many of those present were directly involved in it. And on other counts: it has attracted attention to family problems, it enabled us, by the way, even to change family legislation, of course it is always evolving, but we have made it more current, more in line with the interests of the protection of mothers and children. So I agree that we should not just do routine work, let’s take a broader view of the problem. So I am expecting this from you…
Olga Batalina: Yes, thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Dear colleagues, I would just like to say that I think it is right for us to meet more often as the need arises. I have a suggestion. Andrei Vorobyov, you and everyone here should approach me and propose meetings to discuss specific issues, it does not necessarily have to be public, I simply decided that today we would work publicly because we haven’t met for a long time. Otherwise it would be useful I think for you to be better aware of my position and for me to understand how you feel about the performance of the government and the situation in the country. Naturally, I will share with you my impressions from my trips to the regions. In fact tomorrow I will be going to Yekaterinburg.
Andrei Vorobyov: Thank you very much. We all need it absolutely. Meeting and synchronising our watches on what plans to discuss so that our work here will be useful and of high quality.
Dmitry Medvedev: Agreed. I will convey your best regards to Raul Castro.