Press Conferences

25 september, 2008 18:30

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with board members of the Central Council of Russia’s Agrarian Party

"I think the Agrarian Party and United Russia are likeminded organisations, because even when the Agrarian Party was in opposition it still worked constructively with the authorities".
Vladimir Putin
At a meeting with board members of the Central Council of Russia’s Agrarian Party

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues. I say "colleagues" because it has been decided that the Agrarian Party will merge with United Russia.

I spoke about the unification process at a meeting with the leaders of the party's regional organisations and parliament groups in regional legislatures.

I want to stress that I think it is perfectly correct to preserve on the country's political scene different political forces with different political views, even if the authorities may not like some of them. But this is normal for a democratic society and evidence of a healthy society.

At the same time, I think the unification of likeminded people is also natural. I think the Agrarian Party and United Russia are likeminded organisations, because even when the Agrarian Party was in opposition it still worked constructively with the authorities. It joined forces with United Russia to advocate legislative and administrative decisions to streamline work in the agrarian sector related to development plans, in particular the latest law on the development strategy of the agrarian sector and agro-industrial segment.

But this decision should be approved at a congress, right?

Vladimir Plotnikov: Yes, it should.

Vladimir Putin: I hope the congresses of United Russia and the Agrarian Party will approve these decisions. I am sure that the agrarian element in the united structure will not be overshadowed, but will gain new dynamics. Thank you.

Vladimir Plotnikov: Mr Prime Minister, colleagues. We want to thank you for this meeting and for your respect for the Agrarian Party.

Our party has indeed reached a crucial stage in its development, unification with United Russia. Present in this room are party veterans who established the party. It is gratifying that the [unification] decision has been approved unanimously.

All those present here are members of the party's board. Discussions [of unification] are also underway in the regions, and so far not a single of them have rejected the idea. This is very important. We don't want to hide under the wing of a large party and keep silent. We want to work energetically, to help United Russia, the leadership, the state and society as a whole to feel this real, healthy assistance.

I was happy to hear Boris Gryzlov saying after we have signed the memorandum that this is not a takeover but partner relations, and that they are prepared to share with us use of their structures. This has had a very positive effect.

Of course, Mr Putin, your personal influence as the head of Government and United Russia has played its role too. We remember the time when nobody cared for agriculture, but then national projects were proposed, and the production of milk, meat and other foodstuffs has grown, which is very important.

We are also grateful to United Russia, which had drafted the state programme we have jointly approved. It is being implemented now. These joint steps are a result of understanding also on the part of the regional leaders.

We strongly hope that this process will be completed. Tomorrow we will hold a plenary meeting and plan a congress of the Agrarian Party for October 10. These good trends will be highly instrumental.

I would like to use this opportunity to say that there are too many problems. We want to tackle agrarian problems more effectively. A state programme is very important, but there are still bottlenecks. I think we will deal with them more efficiently as a united party.

I also want to say a few words about the social component. We should join forces to think how United Russia may help solve the problem of rural roads. We are building too few roads, although roads are crucial for solving problems. This is why we want this problem to be addressed in a special manner.

We would also like to use our knowledge as specialists for restoring order in land ownership relations. This is a most irksome bottleneck: only 25 percent of the 11 million people who have received ownership certificate in the past 15 years, have formalised it.

I think you know about this problem; the leadership of the State Duma is now working to solve it. But we should give fresh impetus to this process.

The harvest will be good this year, and the farmers are happy. Indeed, there have been changes in the agrarian policy. We expect to gather in 100 million tons of grain, which is a very important factor. But there is a bottleneck.

Vladimir Putin: How much is this per hectare?

Vladimir Plotnikov: The harvesting campaign is not over yet. The weather has been good for a week in Siberia, and we hope the yield will be record high even compared with the Soviet period - God willing. But everything depends on weather.

We need more mineral fertilisers; we export 90 percent of output. Prices have grown by almost 300 percent over the past few years. We are selling mineral fertilisers abroad at prices that are lower than on the domestic market. Now is the time to add fertilisers, but this is not easily done. So, only government pressure can help solve this problem.

I would not like addressing this issue now; we can discuss it later, as part of routine work of the united party. But this is what I want to say now: we believe that by pooling efforts we will be able to more effectively solve the problems the Agrarian Party has not solved. Everyone here supports this view.

We are grateful to United Russia for regarding us as a partner. It is much better to develop when we can consult each other. We have common views, and hope to have them in the future too.

Vladimir Putin: Any other speakers? Sergei Openyshev has the floor.

Sergei Openyshev: I also want to say that we are uniting not to boost our careers, as the Agrarian Party is one of the oldest in Russia and has seen many different events.

It was not an easy decision, but we have taken it because the agrarian policy you have been pursuing in the past decade has given us hope.

We have agreed that today we can work jointly also with the ruling party on issues of importance to us. I believe that this will greatly benefit the agricultural sector. We know that it is only together that we can solve these problems. There are reasons to work together now, when we are not tackling local problems in order to attain local results, but see that the Government has a comprehensive agrarian policy and that this policy will yield embracing results.

We have only one thing to ask of you, Mr Putin. We know what needs to be done in agriculture. We would like our knowledge and possibilities to be used to the full, so that we would accomplish jointly with United Russia the tasks we failed to accomplish as the Agrarian Party. This is it. I don't think there are any other requests.

Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, I think you know that the time for the unification of United Russia and the Agrarian Party has not been chosen at random. In fact, it has not been chosen but prompted by the logic of development.

Why do I think so? Not only because in the past years we have been increasing our attention to agriculture, farmers and everyone else who live and work in rural areas, as you have just said, but also because we now have different farmers, efficient producers who need modern forms of assistance.

I sincerely want the Agrarian Party to know that it can expect assistance in the united structure but must also become a real, integral part of United Russia, so as to be able to uphold the agricultural sector and the people who live in rural areas.

Mr Plotnikov has mentioned this. We launched a national project several years ago, and it has since been changed into a state programme. Of course, we should strictly comply with its parameters at the legislative level and the level of executive authority. We must ensure strict compliance.

What kind of support can we provide? Like in the framework of the national project, we can provide financial assistance - we discussed refinance rates, new loans for the sector, and other issues at the meeting with your colleagues from United Russia I have just had - as well as infrastructure assistance.

Roads were mentioned here. I want to tell you that additional allocations of 44 billion roubles have been approved for this purpose for 2010-2015. We must ensure uninterrupted financing, so that money is provided on time and is used effectively.

As for the social development of rural areas, we have a special programme, as you know. And the last but not the least, the customs tariffs policy, which should serve the interests of both consumers and agricultural producers. You know, our decision will add a new element to the talks of Russia's accession to the WTO.

Vladimir Plotnikov: We will support you; we have been waiting for this. We didn't want to create problems, but now we see that we should take a firm stand, acting in our country's interests.

Vladimir Putin: Absolutely. Besides, I believe our partners have lost interest in the accession talks because they have nothing to wish for any longer. We have assumed many obligations and are honouring them even though Russia is not a member of that organisation. What do they need to accept us for then?

Our partners must know that this is a complicated process that cannot proceed without both partners making concessions; it must be an honest and equal process. This is why we have warned all our partners that we will not honour all kinds of super-quotas and excessive requirements after a specified date, although we still want to join the WTO but only if this is in the interests of national producers.

Well, we will work jointly on all these issues, including the issues you have raised here, such as fuel and lubricants, and loans.

However, Mr Plotnikov also mentioned one more problem, which we must address with the greatest care. It concerns land ownership rights.

How can we solve the problem of unit funds, and what can we do with them? Can we serve the interests of people, our citizens? Can we live up to their hopes and at the same time create conditions for effective development of agriculture, both small and medium-sized farms and large producers? This calls for collective discussions and decisions based on current practice, modern realities and development prospects. And this cannot be done without open, direct dialogue. This is why your unification with United Russia is so important.

Vladimir Plotnikov: We are even prepared to take unpopular measures, to formulate unpopular decisions and approaches. Because in the past we vacillated politically, but now we know that the time of vacillation is over, and we must take a decision.

Vladimir Putin: Of course, we must. It is inadmissible that the people have units only on paper. And then, there are all manner of crooks buying up these units and then getting the right to rezoning land plots. They are not engaged in farming, nor do they build housing there. These are land speculation schemes, all of them