The managing partner Konstantin Krutilnikov commented the potential union of St.-Petersburg and Leningrad region in the “Kommersant” newspaper

15 September 2011

Union is postponed

St.-Petersburg and the Leningrad region shall be united into a single constituent entity of the Federation no sooner than after a year.

St-Petersburg and the Leningrad region shall not be united in the near future. Yesterday, Georgy Poltavchenko the governor of St.-Petersburg, replying to questions asked by journalists, declared that neither he, nor Valery Serdyukov, the governor of the neighbour region “ever had such orders”. Experts are positive, that the issue shall be brought up immediately upon resignation of Mr. Serdyukov in July, 2012, when his term of office shall expire.

After a meeting of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg, where three new vice-governors were appointed, the new governor declared that the union of St.-Petersburg and the Leningrad region “is not on the agenda”. Earlier on, Nikolai Vinnichenko, the new Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Northwestern Federal District, gave the same reply to this question. However, he proposed to get back to the idea of union in the middle of next year, i.e., in summer 2012, when term of office of Valery Serdyukov, Leningrad Region Governor, shall expire.

The new Governor and the new Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy adhered to the policy of their predecessors Valentine Matvienko and Ilya Klebanov. However, the latter made more clear statements on the matter, at the same time, they were less straightforward as regards Valery Serdyukov’s resignation. For instance, in June Mrs. Matvienko has again stated (in the context of future expansion of Moscow, absorption of the Moscow Region and establishment of metropolitan federal district) that she still stands for establishment of a united region and, “her intuition suggests” that it is quite sure to happen. Arcady Dvorkovich, Assistant to the President of Russia, voiced the same opinion.

Regional officials hold their original view. “The governor has repeatedly delivered his opinion on the matter (Mr. Serdyukov has always opposed the union with the city. —“Ъ”).Nothing has changed since then. I can say that this issue was not discussed by the government of the Leningrad region," said Ruslan Nekhay, the Chairman of Press Committee of the regional government.

However, by the beginning of process of unification, Mr. Serdyukov’s view will hardly interest anyone. His term of office will expire in July, 2012 (if his bosses will not ask him to resign earlier). There is an opinion, in the lobby of regional administration, that the governor may, as did Valentina Matvienko, became a senator in the Federation Council of Russia in December, just after elections to the State Duma and the regional legislative assembly, all the more so as members of the United Russia party initiated amendments to the law “On the Procedure of Formation of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation”. Subject to these amendments, not only a deputy of state or municipal parliament, but also a deputy of the State Duma can become senator. Valery Serdyukov is second on the lists of candidates nominated by the party for elections to the State Duma. So he shall hardly have any troubles in getting into the Federation Council of Russia.

Today, St.-Petersburg is well ahead of the Leningrad region in terms of many economic and industrial indicators. For instance, over the first seven months of this year, the industrial production index in the city was 115.7 %, whereas in the Leningrad region the same index was 107.3 %. Last year, the amount of foreign investments in St.-Petersburg economy was $5.2 billion, having decreased by 5.3 %. For the Leningrad region, the same indexes were much worse. The amount of foreign investments in the economy of the region was $637 million, having decreased by 48.9 % as compared to 2009. For the first six months of this year indicators of decrease in the amount of foreign investments still have negative dynamics. For the region, the amount of foreign investments decreased by 59.4 %, and for the city this index decreased “slightly”, i.e. by 28 %. As a result, the Northern capital was ahead of the Leningrad region in terms of total amount of foreign investments: $1.6 billion versus $201.7 million.

For the first six months of 2011, St.-Petersburg was in advance of the Leningrad region in terms of amount of fixed investment: 129 billion rubles versus 102 billion rubles. Over the above period, this indicator for each of the entities has decreased as compared to January —June, 2010: in the Leningrad region it decreased by 8.9%, and in St.-Petersburg by 10.7 %.

The business community believes that it is still necessary to unite the two constituent entities of the Federation.

“I stand for the union of St.-Petersburg and the Leningrad region, because officials shall decrease in number, and regional courts shall become more civilized. Residents of the Leningrad region shall benefit more from it, by getting access to municipal infrastructure, medical services and education. It shall also result in renewal of local elite, which is quite good, too. However, it is worthwhile noting that the process lies in an absorption rather than union (to speak in more habitual terms),” said Konstantin Krutilnikov, the managing partner of the law firm S&K Vertikal.

According to Yury Agafonov, Director of the Self-Regulated Regional Association of the Road Complex of North-Western Russia: “Should the entities of the Federation be united, the road works shall be better coordinated and planned”. In his opinion, to ensure comfort and safety of citizens, the road networks of St.-Petersburg and the Leningrad region should be unified, however it would only be possible if the city and the region are united.

Vassily Kiselyov, the chairman of Passenger Carriers Association, says that now it would be impossible to establish a common route network for St-Petersburg and the Leningrad region, in the context of abundant municipal formations in the Leningrad region. "Each municipal formation tends to resolve the transport issue separately from other municipal units. It may be said, that in the Leningrad region they let transport matters take care of themselves. Any common transport service for St.-Petersburg and the Leningrad region shall be possible only if the latter should have the same financing as the city, and the same plan of management,” said Mr. Kiselyov. According to his estimates, to ensure centralized transport service of St.-Petersburg and the Leningrad region one should divest municipal formations of their transport powers and to delegate them to respective government agency of the united constituent entity of the Federation.

Boris Gorlin, Aleksandr Konfisakhor, Vlada Gasnikova

“Kommersant Sankt-Peterburg” no. 172 (4712) of 9/15/2011 

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