Vladimir Putin: Still we have no reason to become dizzy with success

President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation delivered his annual state-of-the-nation address before the Federal Assembly April 18, outlining national tasks for the next 12 months to come.

First of all, the Russian economy should grow more quickly, because we would otherwise lose time and again, curtailing our global political and economic potentialities in the process, the president told those present.

The head of state reminded his audience that the government forecast stipulated economic-growth rates to the tune of 3.5-4.6 percent during the next few years. Such a low opinion of Russia's potentialities doesn't benefit our cause, the president noted. Moreover, this estimate doesn't presuppose any active policy, as well as measures aimed at tapping the Russian economic potential. In Putin's words, this, first of all, implies the relevant business potential, science-and-technical potential, as well as that in the sphere of up-to-date managerial technologies.

Most importantly, we've now got to create a favorable environment enabling the people of Russia to earn money and to invest such money into their own country's economy for a profit, Putin stressed. With this in mind, we'll have to alter the entire system of state institutions' work, Putin added. As of today, Russia's tremendous potential is being blocked by that unwieldy and ineffective state machinery, the president stressed. The head of state recalled the numerous appeals on the part of private individuals complaining about red tape. The state machinery's slipshod performance serves to breed such an evil as corruption, Putin noted. In this connection, Putin ordered the Russian Government to submit its proposals on restructuring the executive branch.

According to Putin, corruption is the direct consequence of curtailed economic freedoms, rather than the result of non-existent repressions. Greater barriers entail additional bribes, also inducing more officials to accept bribes, the president of Russia believes.

On the problems of Chechnya, Putin noted that the military phase of the Chechen counter-terrorist operation had already been completed.

In his words, Chechnya's reintegration into the Russian political-legal infrastructure is perceived as one of the most important present-day tasks. According to Putin, every Chechen resident must perceive himself or herself as a full-fledged citizen of the Russian Federation.

The Russian leadership's goals remain the same. Their list is as follows:

- ensuring Russia's democratic development; - asserting a civilized market and a rule-of-law state; - most importantly, raising popular living standards.

We have made some headway in implementing our reforms, Putin admitted. Economic growth continued last year; it became possible to create new jobs; the number of jobless people dwindled by 700,000, with real-life popular incomes soaring by nearly six percent.

We wanted average nationwide pensions to exceed subsistence- minimum levels of retired people last year, regarding this as our modest, albeit highly important, objective. One can safely say that this objective has now been accomplished, the president of Russia said.

The president also noted Russia's progress in creating the relevant market-economy infrastructure, in enhancing private property guarantees (mostly with the help of an improved legislative base), in approving the Land Code and the Labor Code, as well as legislative packages in the field of pension and judicial reforms, in the field of economic de-bureaucratization and in its efforts to streamline the tax system.

Still, we have no reason to become dizzy with success, Putin reminded those present.

A bill on fighting terrorism will soon be submitted to the State Duma, Putin said in his address to the Federal Assembly.

Growth of extremism in Russia, in the view of the Russian president, poses a "serious threat to stability and public security". "I mean above all those who, using fascist national slogans and symbols, stage disorders, beating up and killing people," the president said.

The police and prosecutors often lack sufficiently effective means to call to justice the organisers and inspirers of such crimes, the head of state pointed out. In many cases only direct perpetrators are brought to trial. "Actually, gangs of extremists act in effect as organised criminal communities and must be persecuted similarly," the president emphasised.

Russia has taken a substantial step in modernising its judicial and legal system. Most of the required decrees, acts and laws have been adopted, funds for their enforcement allocated and what now needs to be done is to carry out punctually the decisions taken, Putin said.

A key aspect of further improvement of the judicial and legal system, according to the president, is above all procedures that warrant the protection of individual rights and accessibility of justice.

We need such courts of law which are respected both in the country and outside it, Putin said, this is not only a political task, it is also not least an economic one. An effective judiciary system is also needed in order that domestic and foreign companies do not doubt its authority and efficacy.

The new Criminal Procedure Code is to come into effect in Russia in July of this year, the president recalled. In view of this the judicial and law enforcement bodies must decide many organisational matters. Putin asked the Federal Assembly to promptly examine the necessary amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (including norms that concern transfer of arresting powers to the courts) and to adopt a law on enacting it.

Next in line are codes and laws essential for the country's economy and its citizens the Civil Procedure Code, the Administrative Code, and the Arbitration Code, as well as the Law on Courts of Private Arbitration, the Russian president said.

We should also optimise the structure of arbitration courts. Today a dispute is settled and a complaint against the decision is examined in one and the same court. We should take a closer look at this problem. It is also necessary as clearly to divide the powers of arbitration courts and courts of general jurisdiction. The judicial system is discredited by the fact that quite often one and the same dispute is examined in different courts, which besides quite frequently take contradicting rulings. This nonpluses businessmen and ordinary people, nonpluses courts and does not contribute to the development of a healthy business environment.

The president asked every level of authority to give utmost attention to a population census which is to be held in Russia in October of this year. The census will furnish the needed precise information on the composition of the country's population, the number of migrants, and the structure of employment. Without these data effective administration of the country is impossible, Putin noted.

The president said about army problems that the military reform is an unquestionable priority of the state. We should gradually create a professional army with a reduced length of service by conscription, thinks the head of state. "The state and above all the army itself need the reform," he said.

Vladimir Putin expressed the opinion that "the new system of manning and the reduction of the length of service for conscripts cannot become reality within a year. This is why the Defence Ministry will launch an experiment in individual military formations this year, designed to create a mechanism of the transfer of the army and navy to the principle of voluntary service. The results of this experiment will clearly show how soon we will have a possibility to reduce the length of service by conscription."

"We must not procrastinate with this reform but undue haste in this sphere is inadmissible either," stressed the president. The government will work in this direction "gradually, with due consideration for the financial possibilities of the country and the interests of national security."

Russia's vital goal in foreign policy is to ensure strategic stability in the world, Vladimir Putin said in this year's address to the Federal Assembly. Seeking "to attain [this goal], we are taking part in the creation of a new general system of security, maintaining dialogue with the USA and working to change the quality of our relations with NATO."

Putin stressed that Russia's priorities are connected with Europe. "Our consistent stand and numerous practical steps towards integration with Europe are apparent," he said. "We will continue working with the EU in a bid to create a common economic space."

Vladimir Putin said about the struggle against international terrorism that Russia, which had encountered elements of international terrorism long ago, has never doubted the need to support the goal of eradicating terrorism in one of its main dens. Besides, the situation in Afghanistan posed a real threat to security on the southern borders of Russia. He stressed that the international community has liquidated one of the sources of international terrorism. As the president put it, the threat of international terrorism has become apparent and no longer needs proving.

Russia's basic foreign policy priority is collaboration with the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which "is a practical factor of stability on a large part of the planet," said the president. "The CIS countries have many possibilities for implementing large-scale joint projects in the sphere of infrastructure, transport and power engineering. (...) I am convinced that their implementation will strengthen our integration and offer new possibilities to the economy of Russia and other countries," said Vladimir Putin.

He believes that it is a vital task of the Russian parliament to gear Russian legislation to the norms of the World Trade Organisation. He stressed that this work should take into consideration the interests and opinions of industrialists and trade unions. The customs, anti-dumping and other specific elements of the WTO policy should be fully taken into account in this work, stressed the president.

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