RUSSIA: Putin's Decree Extends Powers of Presidential Religious Committee

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service, 23 March 2001

In addition to reshuffling the members of the Council for Cooperation with Religious Organisations Attached to the President of the Russian Federation, President Putin's as yet unpublished 17 March decree makes some significant amendments to the 2 August 1995 presidential decree which created it.

Most notable is the complete replacement of Article 11 of the 1995 decree - 'The Council does not possess controlling or managerial functions in relation to religious organisations' - with a routine provision concerning the formation of working groups. The new decree does not therefore state whether or not the Council possesses such powers.

Article 10 of the 1995 decree stipulated that the Council should 'cooperate with analogous committees of Russia's Federal Assembly and the Commission for Issues Relating to Religious Organisations Attached to the Government of the Russian Federation.' Article 9 of the 2001 decree retains the latter body, but replaces the former with the Duma's Committee on Social and Religious Organisations - of much more influence in the execution of Russia' s religious policy, since it considers legislation on religion prior to its adoption in parliament.

In addition to discussing normative legal acts concerning relations between the state and religious organisations, which was present in Article 4 of the 1995 decree, Article 4 of the 2001 decree entrusts the Council with the power to 'prepare corresponding proposals for the president of the Russian Federation.'

The new importance of academic institutions in religious policy (see separate KNS article) is confirmed by their inclusion in the list of bodies represetantives of which the Council may invite to its meetings. (Article 7) The final changes to the 1995 decree are procedural: whereas previously 'a simple majority of those present' was required to approve a motion (Article 9, 1995 decree), a two-thirds majority of those present is now required (Article 9, 2001 decree). The Council must now meet at least once every six months (Article 8, 2001 decree) as against every quarter (Article 8, 1995 decree). (END).