Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly

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Vladimir Putin delivered the annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly.

Members of the Council of Federation, State Duma and Government, presidents of the Constitutional, Supreme and Arbitration courts, heads of the constituent entities, chairpersons of regional legislative assemblies, heads of traditional faiths, public figures, including heads of regional civic chambers, and executives of major media outlets, are in attendance at the ceremony taking place in St George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace

This year, the Address is being delivered on the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution, which was adopted by popular vote on December 12, 1993.

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PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Citizens of Russia, members of the Council of Federation and the State Duma,

The President’s state-of-the-nation annual Address to the Federal Assembly is a requirement set forth in the Russian Constitution, that which is exactly 20 years old today. I congratulate you on this important date for our state and our society. And of course, I also congratulate you on the 20th anniversary of the Federal Assembly, Russia’s parliament, which was created in accordance with the provisions of our country’s basic law.

Our Constitution brings together two fundamental priorities – the supreme value of rights and freedoms of citizens and a strong state, emphasising their mutual obligation to respect and protect each other. I am convinced that the constitutional framework must be stable, above all in what concerns its second chapter, which defines the rights and freedoms of individuals and citizens. These provisions of our fundamental law are inviolable.

But life does not stand still, and no constitutional process can ever be regarded as finally completed or dead. Targeted amendments to other constitutional chapters, deriving from law enforcement practices and from life itself, naturally are possible and sometimes necessary.

You know that we have proposed to amend the Constitution and to unite the Supreme Court and Higher Arbitration Court. Today these courts often differ, sometimes quite substantially, in their interpretation of various laws. Sometimes they take different decisions in similar cases, and sometimes they agree. This results in legal uncertainty, and at times in injustices that affect concrete people.

I believe that unifying these courts will allow us to bring judicial practice onto one track, and therefore strengthen the guarantees protecting a crucial constitutional principle, the equality of all before the law.

Colleagues,

The Constitution contains crucial unifying national ideas.

The meaning of its provisions on the welfare state consists in the mutual responsibility linking the state, society, the business community, and every Russian citizen. We must support the growing desire of citizens, representatives of public and professional associations, political parties, and the business class to participate in our country’s life.

Among other things we must support civic activism at the local level, in communities, so that people get a real opportunity to participate in managing their village or town, to deal with everyday issues that actually determine their quality of life.

Today quite a few problems have accumulated within our local self-government system. Unfortunately, and you know it well, the responsibilities incumbent on municipalities and their resources are not evenly balanced. This often leads to confusion regarding their authorities, which are not only blurred, but are constantly thrown from one level of government to another: from districts to regions, from towns to districts and back again. Local self-government authorities are being constantly shaken by corruption scandals.

The powers at the district level have been significantly watered down. Those that existed in education, healthcare, and social welfare have been transferred to the regional level of government.

In addition, local authority – because it is the closest power to the people – should be organised so that any citizen could reach out to it, figuratively speaking. In this connection I am addressing the All-Russian Council for Local Self-Government Development, All-Russian Congress of Municipalities, governors, and members of the Federal Assembly, of the Government of the Russian Federation – let’s comprehensively go over these issues again and finally bring the situation in line with common sense and attune it to the times.

Let me repeat: I think the most important task is to clarify the general principles of local self-government organisation, develop strong, independent, financially sustainable local authorities. And we need to start this work and give it sound legal foundations already next year, 2014, the year of the 150th anniversary of the famous Zemstvo Reform of 1864.

To be continued.

December 12, 2013, 13:15The Kremlin, Moscow