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Russian parliament’s upper house ends autumn session,considers 103 issues last day

December 26, 2015, 7:35 UTC+3 MOSCOW
In all they scrutinized more than 300 legal acts this autumn
1 pages in this article
© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, December 26. /TASS/. The upper house of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council, has risen for the winter holiday. On the last day of the autumn session FC members considered 103 issues and approved of 90 laws. In all they scrutinized more than 300 legal acts this autumn.

Air operation in Syria

The FC autumn session’s main event was at the first full-scale meeting: the upper house empowered the president to use armed forces outside the country after a request from Syria’s legitimate authorities. The discussion on the issue was held behind closed doors. The chief of the presidential staff Sergey Ivanov took part. FC Speaker Valentina Matviyenko later said that the upper house members asked many questions about the forthcoming operation to have heard firm promises that it would be confined to air support for the Syrian army.

Struggle against international terrorism

Throughout the session the struggle against international terrorism held possibly a more prominent place on the FC’s agenda than law-making activities proper. A message to the parliaments of the world and international organizations, adopted at the full-scale session on November 18 was one of the results of these efforts. FC members asked foreign partners to rule out the use of double standards and classification of terrorists as ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in politics, and to demonstrate the ability of the world community to overcome differences in the face of a common threat. As an example of such association they mentioned the anti-Hitler coalition, which incorporated states with different political systems.

Two days later the upper and lower house members held a joint session to issue a call for declaring terrorism a crime to which the statute of limitations does not apply and to firmly prosecute terrorists and their accomplices around the world. In the joint message the Russian law-makers also urged tighter responsibility for terrorist crimes in Russia. Matviyenko said that members of both houses of Russia’s parliament were already working on the corresponding amendments to the national legislation. "When they have been finalized, we will certainly inform them on the content of such amendments," she said, adding that the proposals in question contained no extraordinary measures or contradictions to the Constitution or principles of the rule of law.

Parliamentary diplomacy

Sanctions against Russian legislators caused certain changes to the schedule of trips by Federation Council members to international events. Before the autumn session the United States issued an entry visa to the Federation Council’s speaker with certain restrictions, which did not allow Valentina Matviyenko to attend a conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in New York and a meeting of women legislators. The whole Russian delegation refused to go to the United States in protest.

Nevertheless, Russian legislators eventually held a meeting with their foreign counterparts at one of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s events. An unprecedentedly large Russian delegation including speakers of both houses of the Russian parliament went to Geneva for the 133rd session of the IPU in October. At Russia’s proposal IPU President Saber Chowdhury made a statement on the impermissibility of using visa sanctions against legislators participating in international forums. He said the IPU was unable to agree with the use of politically-motivated visa sanctions against the members of parliament who had been properly appointed by their parliaments to participate in international events. He vowed commitment to the principle and policy of conducting assemblies envisaged by the IPU Charter only in those countries where all IPU members and observers have been invited and if their representatives were certain that the visas required for participation would be issued to them.

The Russian delegation to the IPU session made some other proposals. It suggested making Russia a working language of the organization and holding the 2017 spring session in Russia. The chairman of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachyov was elected a member of the IPU Executive Committee from the Eurasian geopolitical group and, according to the organization’s Charter, he will take the post of IPU vice-president. He will be endorsed in that capacity at the organization’s next session in Zambia due in the spring of 2016.

Budget, financial discipline and ECHR

Amid the worsening economic situation in the country and budget deficit FC members exerted great efforts to identify extra funds to support regional budgets. As Matviyenko said while summing up the results of the session, many proposals by the upper house were taken into account "in the final version of the main financial document."

"In part, budget loans to Russia’s territories were increased by 170 billion roubles (to 310 billion from 140 billion). That decision considerably eased the process of planning regional budgets," she said.

Alongside this FC members tightened financial discipline for themselves and for the regional and municipal legislators. FC Deputy Speaker Yuri Vorobyov co-authored a law envisaging early dismissal of federal and regional legislators who have failed to file income and property declarations by April 1. The head of the FC committee for constitutional legislation and urban construction committee, Andrei Klishas, suggested spreading property restrictions, already mandatory for federal civil servants and legislators, to municipal level officials. He explained his proposals were aimed against corruption.

"It is essential to give people a clear idea of how the authorities make use of the economic resources in the no simple economic situation," he said.

Klishas co-authored another high-profile law empowering the Constitutional Court to declare impracticable decisions by international judicial bodies in the sphere of human rights, including the European Court of Human Rights. Klishas said the law was aimed at enforcing ECHR resolutions, and not ignoring them. Federal bodies of power, he explained, have had a free hand to decide whether ECHR requirements agreed with the Russian Constitution or not. "After the adoption of our law the executive authorities will be unable to decide that at their own discretion. They will have to address the Constitutional Court with a query if there was a contradiction to the Constitution or not, and if the Constitutional Court saw opportunities for enforcing the resolution in question," Klishas said.

Plans for the future

As she looked back on the results of the 2015 autumn session, FC Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said that the "final phase was very tight and eventful, which was only natural in the current complex international, economic and financial situation."

The State Duma’s elections will be the main political event next year, Matviyenko said.

"It is natural that for our house the restoration of legislators’ elections in majoritarian constituencies will be of special significance, for it will enhance the representation of regions in the State Duma," Matviyenko said.

During the spring session the upper house members will spend much time on the just-authorized plan for implementing the president’s message to the Federal Assembly. "There are to be many round-table discussions, parliamentary hearings and other activities on topical issues of political, economic, social and cultural development of the country and the regions," Matviyenko said, adding that the solution of issues facing the country required the legislators should take practical action first and foremost, including the monitoring law enforcement.

"Our house believes it is essential to step up control activity, which we are going to do next year," she concluded.

The next session of the Federation Council that will open the spring session is due on January 27, 2016.

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