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Customs Union is Russia’s strategic priority, Kremlin said

This was announced by Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting on customs and migration issues in border regions.

President Medvedev pointed out that requirements for crossing the border for individuals and companies must not become more stringent as the Customs Union enters into force.

The President expressed concern over the demographic situation in the Far East, as well as the lack of special mechanisms in most Russian regions to attract highly qualified professionals. In his opinion, such a state of affairs hinders the regions’ social and economic development.

Dmitry Medvedev also stresses the urgent need to address the problems of illegal migration and national border infrastructure development in the Far East.


PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: We have chosen an excellent venue for discussing migration issues, specific problems of border areas and customs difficulties.

Our conversation began at a meeting yesterday attended by every agency present here now and we examined prospects for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Today let us review migration processes, customs policy, cross-border cooperation and Border Guards operation in the Far Eastern Federal District.

We are all aware of the demographic situation in the Far East. As I pointed out yesterday, the Federal District's population has fallen by nearly a quarter in twenty years. Mr Ishayev says it is 20%, but even if he is correct, it is still an enormous figure, especially considering that the population has always been low here. For a country of our scale, there should be many more people living here, therefore these trends are always very disturbing. As of January 1, 2010, the Far Eastern Federal District had a population of 6.5 million people. In the first four month of this year, the population decline reached 7,000 people, of which 2,000 is due to a natural decline and about 5,000 have been lost due to migration.

This state of affairs greatly complicates the socioeconomic situation and the environmental assets development, and on the whole makes everything harder for everyone, hence the question is how this issue may be resolved. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Russia’s regions still lack special mechanisms for attracting highly qualified professionals both from around the country and abroad. We certainly need foreign specialists, primarily highly qualified professionals, and we need them in the Far East as much as in the central parts of the country because we should launch new production facilities here.

We have just visited a plant that built its operation virtually from scratch. Over the past 10 years many new mining and processing facilities have been launched and they are the kinds of advanced technological and intellectual enterprises the country needs. Therefore, all of these factors require that we focus attention on migration processes.

It is vital that we shape a civilised employment market here and guarantee the rights of all people who work here legally; at the same time we need to combat illegal migration. These are two sides to a coin, assistance to legal workforce and countering illegal labour.

We have been actively promoting business ties with our neighbours in China, who are just across the river from here so one can easily see how they are doing. The successful implementation of the task of strengthening our ties depends on how effectively we can address border and customs issues.

In the past several years we have achieved a great deal in building new and modern frontiers of Russia. We have improved the personnel and logistical potential of the Border Guards. But to be frank, priority in these efforts was given to resolving the problems that we have in the Caucasus where we have done a lot and can see the results. We have launched the State Border federal targeted programme.

As for the situation here in the Far East, it still requires a great deal of effort. I remember my first impressions. I first came here, to Blagoveshchensk, 10 years ago, and visited a border checkpoint. It was a sorry sight as the facilities there were at least 50 or 60 years old, and that hasn't changed much to this day. Besides, the living conditions for the servicemen are not what they should be. So there still is a lot of work to be done. Let us discuss that.

In addition, we should create a modern border crossing infrastructure that will meet today's international requirements. A huge number of people here cross the border in both directions on a regular basis. Therefore we must offer appropriate conditions for border crossing, but at the same there must be strict border control. Let us review ways to achieve that and what we will need to do in the future.

We have a whole series of customs issues in the Far East as everywhere in the country. The situation has changed now. The Customs Union has entered into force on July 1, 2010. I would like to emphasise to you and to the Government of the Russian Federation that we need to focus on the operation of the Customs Union.

After visiting the Far East, my next stop will be in Astana, Kazakhstan, where I will attend a meeting whose agenda will include customs issues. We are just beginning to take our first steps in this direction hence we must make sure that the launch of the Customs Union will not cause additional problems and that our business community can function in favourable conditions.

I have also noticed that there are certain fears; many people say that it is absolutely unclear how this system will work, that it will paralyse all activity for some while, that it will become impossible to supply goods and to accomplish their customs clearance. So please take note: the Customs Union is our strategic priority. We certainly must not introduce any new procedures that would make it more difficult for people to enter and leave our country or to transport goods or transfer money. Any limitations must be in line with the law, reasonable and adequate. These are the three main issues on our agenda.

We must also protect our natural and bio-resources which are our country's wealth. Yesterday we sailed along the Amur River, and watched the transportation of cargos, timber, for example. Some of those pictures bring up very dissonant emotions and we must straighten things out here. It is painful to admit, but we haven’t achieved very much in all these years. We must amend legislation and monitor the local situation. Let us think about this together, discuss ways to proceed and to improve the legislation.


The conditions for migrants must be such that, first, people should be encouraged to come and work here, and second, the rules must be clear and simple enough, so that it will be easier to follow than to violate them. Why do people violate rules? Not because they are so keen to break the law of a foreign state but because those rules simply cannot be followed and in such cases everyone certainly violates them. The only exception is when an individual enters the country for the purpose of committing a crime. But that is a different category of people and we must fight them, find them and bring them to justice.

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