Sergey Katanandov: “The Russian parliament understands importance of the North Caucasus resorts’ development”
Sergey Leonidovich Katanandov, the first deputy chairman of the Federation Council Committee on federal structure, regional policy, local government and northern affairs. Sergey Leonidovich also represents the Republic of Karelia, told Vestnik Kavkaza about development of a draft of the federal law ‘On the specially protected eco-resort region of the Russian Federation of Caucasian Mineral Waters.’
- Hello Sergey Leonidovich! There is a developing of a draft of the federal law ‘On the specially protected eco-resort region of the Russian Federation of Caucasian Mineral Waters.’ Please tell us what stage the development is at and when the project will be submitted to the State Duma?
- I would like to note that the issue of KMV as a specially protected resort region of the Russian Federation is not new. The history of our mineral waters is very huge, very serious. We had a period of formation of the resort, it reached its height during the Soviet period. And a huge number of people visited the resort. This is a unique place, very important for all residents of the former Soviet Union, now Russia. And lets remember also the pre-revolutionary times, too. Therefore, we have a large, serious base, with a long tradition of human rehabilitation.
Efforts to preserve and improve the situation have been taken since the 1990s. There was a special decree of President Boris Yeltsin to support the resorts. Much has been done to preserve the resort. Federal resorts were established and divided between the business owners and so on. But in recent years we came to the realization that the development of the North Caucasus, the development of the mineral water resort is the most important task of the state. And this became an issue for the Federation Council, the Federal Assembly and the State Duma. And the modern stage arose due to the active position of Valentina Matvienko, who visited Kislovodsk once and she was convinced that a lot of problems are challenging us to find a solution to improve the situation. As a result of the report of the Deputy Prime Minister Khloponin to the Federation Council an ordinance was issued, I specifically received it, it is great, but a year has passed since that moment, since the active work was started.
At a certain stage, this work was accompanied by the Russian president. There were given specific instructions by the government in addition to our decree. And now the stage is activated. In the State Duma there is a series of laws, including the Law ‘On the eco-resort region,’ the law ‘To establish a national park in Kislovodsk,’ the law ‘On amendments to the Land Code,’ and so on. There is an active phase of discussions. The law is directly accessible. The Ministry for the Caucasus posted it on their websites. There is a discussion. We have already given our formal conclusion. There is a lot of work. And this is not an accident, it is an important issue.
- And what inhibits the work on the law? What are the difficulties?
- I did not accidentally refer to an ordinance. There are a lot of questions today, when we talk about the problem of revival, formation of a new resort in the region and support for the resort region. Firstly, it is necessary to link several areas: the republics of the North Caucasus, the Stavropol Territory, the different administrations with different views. Secondly, there is a need to preserve the unique landscapes, nature. Many parks have undergone major changes, there is evidence of unauthorized construction. Today order is induced, and the State Property is involved in this issue very actively. Several dozen criminal cases are instituted on this subject. Some cases are in the courts to legalize or on contrary to cancel illegal land transactions, illegal buildings. Monuments became dilapidated in the territory, including Kislovodsk Park. It is necessary to put them in order. Federal money has also been allocated to these issues. And so on.
There are serious problems with access to the resort. The air link leaves much to be desired today. Tickets are expensive, subsidies are necessary. Sanatoria are being closed, services are reduced, the quality of service is low. In this regard, the flow of tourists, even though there is a policy of import substitution, is increasing slightly, by only 5%, but we expect that there should be more, and so on. That's a whole bunch of problems. We all came to the conclusion that without the active position of the state, without the active position of the authorities, the Federal Assembly, the Federation Council, the State Duma, the Presidential Administration of the Russian government, the regional authorities, it is impossible to solve this problem.
I would compare today the problem of the North Caucasus, the problems of the KMW no less, but with a problem of the Far East. And today it is not an accident that the Ministry of the North Caucasus was created, it is not an accident that the presidential envoy to the North Caucasus takes an active position today, the minister and the plenipotentiary representative are actively connected to the implementation of the tasks of improvement and implementation of the state program of development of the resort region of the Russian Federation and the Caucasian Mineral Waters.
Not by chance, I look in the paper, so as not to confuse the names, because there were different resorts, including organizational structures. Right now we all come to the conclusion that not enough work has been done in recent years, but for the year much has been done.
- The Caucasus is diverse. In this area there are several subjects of the Russian Federation, it is home to dozens of peoples. Is there a single approach to the North Caucasus, is it possible to consider the region as a whole, and can universal standards be applied to it?
- It is natural, normal, in fact, today, working, and I am a member of the working group which was established at the Ministry of the North Caucasus, working in its various structures, we all realize how difficult the project is, and how important it is to help its implementation for Development of the North Caucasus and to serve our citizens better, because there is a serious need for services for such a huge resort, there are a lot of those who want to visit the North Caucasus, you just need to carry out serious, diligent work to improve infrastructure, support spa treatments and make possible improvement of towns and development of municipal services in these areas as well.
Therefore, the idea of the creation of a new modern medical cluster emerged, modernization of many resorts, not only federal, but also those which belong today to other owners, and all health centers are banned or closed, and now we are working to implement what we need to do next, including the basis of public-private partnership. It should be supported by the activities of regional and local authorities, including the infrastructure which needs to be created, which brings together local work. Maybe a few will be created, we have a decision on one national park – Kislovodsk park – in order to preserve the nature and resources, and will create a management structure which will bring together all the regional organizations in order to jointly address the issues. This is a very simple matter, and it's not by accident that the presidential envoy keeps this issue under control. But I think that's given such a high level of orders, taking into account the active role of our chairman Valentina Matvienko, taking into account the position of the Minister of the Russian Government, the plenipotentiary representative of the President, the question is still, slowly, getting off the ground.
A lot of organizational work has been done, the first steps are optimistic, we are considering, but here we have a meeting held today, by the way, a committee, summarizing the results of this topic, and we recognize that what has been done is less than we expected, and that work needs to be continued actively, and we hope that all the points of decision this year, after all, will be performed, though we are not going to stop controlling the ordinance.
- And what exactly failed, and what is still in the plans?
- Now, most importantly, the panic has stopped and the process of falling has stopped as well. Specific business is done. Well, for example, the park of Kislovodsk is cleaned up. This is a very important thing: our cultural heritage is preserved, concrete buildings are preserved, including historical ones, order in trade has been induced, infrastructure has been improved, our social committee has been very seriously involved in it, even doctors have joined, a basis for a new medical cluster has been created, that is, the preservation of resort services, a lot of work has been done by the authorized representative in order to bring together all the authorities of our two Republics, Stavropol Territory, local authorities, the four major cities, where there are different resorts and so on.
In organizational terms, the work is enormous. Unfortunately, in previous years it was not done, but in recent years this work has already been ordered. Accordingly, there will be a result. And the goal is a new law, which should appear, a new program, we must in all available opportunities develop a supportive system of transport accessibility, tax cuts, if it is necessary for private public partnership.
- Why is the Kislovodsk Park remarkable?
- It is fantastic. This is one of the best regions of Russia. You need to deal not only with the employment of the residents of the North Caucasus, but to preserve the culture of the North Caucasus and the ways of life, but one must understand that today, at such a high level of services outside Russia, we must provide the opportunity for residents of Russia to come to the territory of the North Caucasus. Accordingly, the services must be of high quality and useful for people, as it was in pre-revolutionary times, or in the Soviet period. And this requires a lot of work and efforts of the federal government and local authorities. Their affords must be combined together. And now it's all done. And I'm pleased to say, as a participant in this process, that the first serious discussion on the formidable Federation Council headed by Valentina Matvienko has done a great job for today. Maybe it is not so noticeable in terms of the result, as we said in the committee, which could certainly do more. In particular, in this season the problem of air transportation could be solved.
As a special decision was made for Crimea, it would be possible for one to be made for the North Caucasus as well. But now the work of the ministry has continued on this subject. And maybe there will be some solutions in the future. Again, the most important area, the most important task, we have understanding of the issues in the Federal Assembly. Why us? After all, it is in general a case for the executive power, but obviously we as representatives of the regions should be concerned about what is happening on our territory. All the representatives of the North Caucasus and Stavropol Territory are actively engaged in the Federation Council, but the most important is the position of our President. Valentina Matviyenko is actively involved in the work not only on improvement of the legislation, which is our priority and responsibility, but also on restoration of order and support of the North Caucasus and the Mineral Water Resorts.
- Sergey Leonidovich, you are a native of the glorious Republic of Karelia, but nevertheless, the Caucasus, in your destiny and the destiny of your family, takes a considerable place, you told us that before the broadcast, but I would like you to share it with our listeners and readers.
- I'm really very lucky, I was born and raised in the national republic, I am proud of it. And I think that we are all Karels, despite the fact that I'm a Russian person. But my father was born and raised in the North Caucasus, in Maikop, I have relatives in Maikop, I grew up in Maikop, I know very well the traditions of the North Caucasus, I have many friends there, my whole life is connected with the North Caucasus. So of course for me this area is very important, I always with great interest support projects of the North Caucasus and am friends with senators from the republics, glad that I have such an opportunity to help the representatives of the North Caucasus, because I understand our great story, I understand all that happened there before and what is happening now. It's a hard nut, it is a complex issue, but our elders knew how to address these issues and we must know as well. I think we will find a solution to this complex issue. Because of course it is a big country, there are a lot of problems here. That's no coincidence, I compared it to the Far East, there is also a difficult nut to fix people, to find a way to help them. But never mind, it does not mean that we should not forget about the Mineral Water resort of the North Caucasus. But I want to note that the Republic of Karelia, too, is supported. A special decree was released by the Russian President on preparations for the centennial in 2020, a special program is now being prepared. I hope that on the development of the resort of the Caucasian Mineral Waters and the North Caucasus specific changes will be made to the program. The extra money will also be allocated, both in infrastructure and in the development of this important resort. This is very important.