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BBC Monitoring
Russia's Putin says state ready to listen to society
Source: Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 0800 gmt 21 Nov 01

[Presenter Yelena Vykhodtseva] The Civil Forum opened in the Kremlin an hour ago. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the opening session. The authorities will lose out unless free society is their partner, Putin said, emphasizing the importance of civic society in building the state. The following is an excerpt from Putin's address.

[Putin] Let me, first of all, greet you and present my congratulations on the beginning of your work. I want to say right away that the assistance rendered by the state in organizing this event was dictated by nothing other than a realization of the necessity of a dialogue and partnership between the authorities and civic society.

You know that various opinions and concerns were voiced during the preparations of the forum to the effect that the state was trying to shape civic society in its own image, to take control over it. But I think that all of us know - and I can assure you that includes the representatives of the authorities - realize perfectly well that civic society could not be organized at their initiative, that is at the initiative of the representatives of the authorities, according to their desire, and especially not according to their instructions. Moreover, I regard any attempts to impose a civic society from above as absolutely counterproductive, practically impossible and even dangerous. It can never be created on someone's instructions.

I want to say it again: everybody understands it perfectly well. It [the civic society] grows independently, it has its own roots, and it feeds on the spirit of freedom. Only in this case will society become genuinely civic. Yes, our civic society cannot be regarded as fully mature. But I think one can hardly find a country where one could say that a civic society has finally matured. In democratic conditions this process is organic and permanent, but in Russia - and we must recognize this - this process is just starting. One can hardly have universal guidelines for nurturing a civic society, but the authorities as a whole must have a single goal: to create the most favourable medium for its development. This is the main and, in fact, the sole objective.

Representatives of different civil institutions are present in this hall. They differ in their goals and in what they expect from the state. There are those who strongly oppose the authorities on issues of principle concerning state policy. I consider that to be not just normal, but - in democratic conditions - to be extremely useful.

Without real relations of partnership between the state and society there can be no strong state nor can there be a flourishing and prosperous society. What we need is a dialogue of equals. We realize that the efficiency of this dialogue to a large extent depends on us, on the representatives of the authorities and on the authorities as a whole.

In this relation, we are ready to undertake the essential organizational measures and, if necessary, legislative measures. We are ready to provide efficient feedback between the state apparatus and society. In any case, we shall try to do this.

We are ready to listen and to hear attentively what you propose. I believe that especially now, when a time of great opportunity has come for Russia and its citizens, such cooperation may be very productive. Our state needs that.

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