Several basic methods and tools can be used by Russian citizens, the business community and public organisations to influence the decision--making processes of bodies of legislative and executive power, though the degree of real influence remains low.
Public councils, expert councils and working groups
Public councils, expert councils and working groups are advisory bodies established by legislative and executive bodies. They are comprised of representatives of civil society, the business community, scientific and expert communities, etc.
The powers of these bodies can include participation in the preparation of legislative and other statutory legal acts, participation in meetings and discussions of legislative and executive authorities, and ensuring public control over activities of the authorities.
In 2012-14, a reform of public councils under the authorities took place. The reform was aimed at reducing the councils’ dependency on agencies. However, further monitoring of the councils’ activities showed that these bodies performed a non-essential function and did not have any significant influence on the decision-making of state authorities.
Executive authorities establish public councils, expert councils and working groups.
Regulatory impact assessment of draft statutory legal acts and other public consultations
In general, any draft of a statutory legal act (SLA) developed by federal executive authorities must undergo regulatory impact assessment (RIA).
RIA is divided into two stages: departmental RIA; and RIA of the Ministry of Economic Development.
The first stage includes: placement of a notice of SLA development; development of a draft act; preparation of an executive summary and public discussion; and independent anti-corruption expertise.
At the first stage, the body that develops the act independently determines the extent of the regulatory impact of the draft SLA.
The minimum term for public discussion is 10 days and is directly proportional to the level of regulatory impact. Any user registered online at www.regulation.gov.ru may take part in the discussion. Proposals and comments received before the deadline must be mandatorily reviewed by the body that develops the SLA within 20 days, and a summary of the policy proposals specifying the position of the developer must be published on the portal.
The second stage is the preparation of the Ministry of Economic Development’s opinion.
Draft SLAs that affect economic activity must mandatorily undergo RIA. Based on the results of an RIA, an opinion about the excessive pressure on business is prepared. In this case, the opinion is not mandatory (ie, the government can continue the development of the SLA even if a negative opinion is given).
A mandatory RIA procedure exists only for draft SLAs developed by executive authorities. SLAs issued by legislative or judicial bodies, or the President, are not required to undergo RIA.
In addition, RIA does not apply to draft SLAs of executive bodies that:
- contain confidential information or state secrets;
- are created on the basis of orders or instructions from the President or the Chair of the Government, which must be developed within 10 days;
- are considered to be priority projects (ie, of higher significance to the state); and
- are part of the National Technological Initiative.
The government regularly uses these exceptions as justification for adopting SLAs without RIA.
There is also a procedure to assess actual impact with regard to existing and previously adopted acts, to determine whether or not their use achieved the results expected at their development. Following the results of the assessment, the existing act may be revised or abolished. At present, however, this procedure is poorly developed (it includes a very limited number of acts) and has no significant effect on the current regulation.
A public executive body implements RIA for SLAs.
Foreign Investment Advisory Council
The Foreign Investment Advisory Council (FIAC) is an advisory body under the government headed by the Chair of the Government. The FIAC is composed of the representatives of approximately 50 major foreign investors in the Russian economy.
The FIAC’s activities are divided into two segments. The first includes annual meetings with the Chair of the Government where key problems of foreign investors are articulated and priority areas of the FIAC’s focus are determined. Following the results of the meetings, a list of assignments and instructions of the government is prepared.
The second includes the ongoing activity of the FIAC’s working groups. Proposals are prepared with regard to its framework for general improvement of the investment climate in Russia.
Meetings of the FIAC’s executive committee under the chairmanship of the Minister of Economic Development can take place several times a year.
The Federation Council and the State Duma have the right to hold parliamentary hearings on issues within their competence. Members of the public have the right to participate in public hearings. Following the results of a hearing, materials are prepared that may include recommendations for legislative activities. Recommendations can be published and sent to the government.
In practice, parliamentary hearings play a minor role in the legislative process. They are usually held to generate media coverage and to draw stakeholders’ attention to the topic under discussion.
Enquiries to state authorities
The Constitution enshrines the right of citizens to send individual or collective enquiries to state and local self-government authorities.
Citizens have the right of written enquiries and to a personal appointment with a member of a state authority. Written enquiries must be considered within 30 days of the date of their registration.
Such enquiries do not have any serious effect on the legislative process. For instance, there is a ‘Russian public initiative’ website (www.roi.ru) where citizens can advance various initiatives. Upon receipt of 100,000 signatures, the initiative must be considered by an expert working group under the government (within the Open Government system - see above), which decides whether or not to develop the initiative.
If an initiative has gained more than 35,000 votes, it can be submitted to the State Duma. In the autumn of 2017, 14 initiatives received 100,000 votes; of these, one has been implemented and one has been adopted with reservations. Ten initiatives have also been implemented that received less than 100,000 votes. Since introducing this system in March 2013, more than 11,000 initiatives have been submitted.
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