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[Putin Remarks:] Extract from Meeting with the Government Cabinet
December 5, 2005
The Kremlin, Moscow
On the draft law on changes to the laws on public and non-profit organisations

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: At the Security Council meeting on Saturday, my colleagues and I examined the draft law on non-governmental organisations that is currently before the State Duma.

I want to say once again that we need this law only in order to protect our political system from outside intervention and to protect our society and our people from anyone acting under the cover of this or that organisation to spread any sort of terrorist or misanthropic ideology. Unfortunately, we do encounter such cases; we do encounter various religious extremist tendencies. Ultimately, we end up having to take tough action to resolve this or that problem with the help of our law enforcement agencies. All of this should certainly be something the state keeps within its field of view.

But at the same time it is perfectly clear that modern Russias greatest achievement is the democratic process, the achievements of our civil society, and we cannot allow ourselves to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

It is for this reason that I sent Justice Minister Yury Chaika to Strasburg with instructions to hold consultations on this issue with our European colleagues.

(Addressing Yury Chaika) Yury Yakovlevich, who did you meet with there and what conclusions did you reach?

YURY CHAIKA: Thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich.

In accordance with your instructions, I worked in Strasburg from November 29 to December 1. I not only held consultations there but also submitted our draft law on amending and adding to the Law On Public Organisations and the Law On Non-Profit Organisations for an expert opinion (written legal expert opinion).

As part of my discussions on this issue I met with Director General of the Legal Affairs Directorate Mr Guy de Vel, and with the Council of Europes Commissioner for Human Rights Mr Gil Robles. We had a very detailed two-day discussion with experts from the Human Rights and Legal Directorates, and the Council of Europe also invited a specialist in private law, a professor from Amsterdam University, who also worked with us. When we met with Mr Gil Robles, we wanted to hear his opinion on our draft law not only because he is the Council of Europes chief defender of human rights, but also because he is a highly qualified lawyer, a doctor of law and a professor at Madrid University, and we discussed the issues our draft law is concerned with on a number of occasions. Mr Gil Robles said that it is the sovereign right of the state to set rules for, register and know the charter and founders of any organisation. The transparency of financial flows and this was one of the most topical issues is a compulsory requirement in any modern rule-of-law state. Every country has the fundamental right to know who is investing money in the country and what this money is being spent on.

At the same time, political scientists from the Moscow School of Political Science were studying in Strasburg, and representatives of human rights organisations from the Baltic states and the CIS countries were also taking part in this work. The secretary-general who knew that we were coming, as we had requested that he give the instruction for the expert opinion on our draft law to be carried out when asked about the draft law as part of the schools discussions, also said that setting rules for the registration of non-profit organisations and for ensuring conformity of their activities with the aims set out in their charters and the transparency of their financial flows is the obligatory or general rule for any state that respects itself, and it is an internal matter of the state.

When we met with the experts we argued the case that our draft law meets all international standards and norms. During this discussion we based ourselves in particular, on the established European principles and rules, above all on the European convention of 1986 that recognises international non-governmental organisations as legal entities, and also on a very important document that was adopted only recently, the Fundamental Principles of the Status of Non-governmental Organisations in Europe, which was approved by decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on April 16, 2003. We also argued our position based on the special recommendations issued by the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF). These recommendations were issued in 2001 with respect to combating the financing of terrorism.

The written expert opinion, which I have brought with me, and which was presented to us by Mr Davis, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, along with an accompanying letter, states in its general conclusions that the Russian Federation has the right to pass legislation regulating the creation and activities of non-profit and non-governmental organisations on Russian territory. The main aim of the draft law is to give the federal authorities greater powers to carry out supervision of non-governmental and non-profit organisations. As we have made very clear, the aim of this supervision is to combat money laundering and terrorism, and these are legitimate objectives that are in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, another document that was cited by the specialists.

Overall, the registration of non-profit and non-governmental organisations conforms to European standards.

The system for supervising their activities, including their financing, is considered expedient. The fact that they can seek legal protection by challenging decisions made by the relevant authorities in the courts also conforms to European standards. This is one of the main amendments that we have made.

A number of concerns were also expressed in the conclusions and during the discussions, above all regarding insufficiently clear requirements and formulation in some places in the draft law. Some of the requirements are, shall we say, in excess of or not in proportion to what we want to see.

The final issue of particular concern is how the laws are actually enforced in practice in Russia. We think therefore that all these recommendations could be taken into consideration in the second or third reading of the draft law. As far as the Justice Ministry is concerned, the way I see our work is that, if the law is passed, our main task will certainly be to tighten control at the registration stage and to remove excess barriers in the way of registration of non-governmental and public organisations so that the whole process takes place completely in accordance with the law. That is the first task.

The second task is definitely to establish closer contact with our civil society and with its institutions, above all with the Public Council and the other institutions representing civil society.

That is the situation in brief.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Thank you. You held consultations both with the Council of Europes Legal Affairs Directorate and the Human Rights Commission?

YURY CHAIKA: Yes. An expert group was set up that was headed by Mr de Vel, the director general of the Legal Affairs Directorate. The group included two or even three people from the Legal Affairs Directorate and also several people from the Human Rights Department and the specialist in private law who was personally invited to also take part in the work.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good.

(Addressing Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Sobyanin) I ask you as chief of the [Presidential] Executive Office to take into consideration the recommendations made by our European colleagues, and to definitely take into account the concerns expressed by the members of the Public Council and the representatives of Russian non-governmental organisations, make a summary of them and prepare for me within five days possible draft amendments to the law that will be sent to the State Duma on behalf of the President of the Russian Federation.

SERGEI SOBYANIN: Yes, Vladimir Vladimirovich.