The 9th St Petersburg International Legal Forum

Dmitry Medvedev attended the forum’s plenary session titled The Art of Law.

The St Petersburg International Legal Forum was launched in 2011 and is a major platform for dialogue between politicians, lawyers, economists and researchers representing all the main economic and legal systems.

The forum seeks to promote ways to modernise the law in the changing global environment, including ways to optimise cooperation between legal systems and work out common approaches to developing law in today’s world, to modernise Russian law by using the best international practices for drafting and administering laws, and to assist in the development of modern legal sciences and legal education in Russia and throughout the world.

This year, the forum’s business programme includes debates, working group meetings, lectures, presentations, talk shows and off-site conferences. The plenary session is titled The Art of Law.

The award ceremony of the of the St Petersburg International Legal Forum Private Law Prize 2019 was held on the sidelines of the event. This law prize, which has no analogues either in Russia or in the world, was established in 2017.

Plenary session of the forum

Dmitry Medvedev’s remarks at the forum’s plenary session

Dmitry Medvedev: The forum brings together more participants every year. This year, it’s about 5,000 people from 100 countries.

The theme of our meeting is The Art of Law. Progress in art is made by breaking rules. Law must go beyond the boundaries the humanity had set for itself, while preserving the necessary traditions and continuity.

Today, the hottest legal issues arise at the junction of law, technology, economy and art. Financial technologies, smart contracts, blockchain, big data and artificial intelligence are increasingly becoming part of business, and legal services are increasingly being automated and intellectualised.

It is imperative to include universal basic approaches in legal regulation in order to provide a transparent, effective and safe environment for digital technology.

In fact, an entire array of new norms seeking to achieve three key goals is being developed in legislation. The first goal is to determine the principle for information dissemination in virtual space, and do so in a way that guarantees the interests of all the parties involved in legal relations. It is important to strike a balance between protecting citizens’ rights and preserving the benefits of free exchange of online information.

The General Data Protection Regulation at the EU level is currently in force. We have data protection legislation in our country. However, with the advent of new principles in that sphere, there will still be need to reform this regulation.

Big data is an important matter, since access to it opens up unique opportunities for promoting education, science and technology.

Intellectual rights, in particular, copyright, are a hot topic for everyone. Part 4 of the Civil Code and a number of sector-specific laws regulate these issues in our country. Courts can block pirate websites, mirrors and links provided by search engines.

The circulation of intellectual property rights is another aspect of information exchange. The Government is currently working on the so-called fifth anti-trust legislative package that addresses the specific nature of oversight in the era of digitalisation. This package is somewhat revolutionary, since digital platforms make it possible for companies that do nothing but resell information and data processing technology to dominate the real economy. This draft law is designed to prevent the emergence of cartels in this sector.

Second, we are working on new regulations for developing the digital economy, dealing with the financial sector, as well as the need to create a high-technology industrial infrastructure. Draft laws on digital financial assets, regulating insurance agents and brokers online and moving licensing of certain types of activity online have been submitted to the State Duma. Our next step will be to create a legislative framework for developing the electronic signature and remote identification solutions.

Two laws were adopted in 2019: one deals with smart contracts and the other with the taxation of e-services. Five more draft laws are currently in the State Duma, and more than 20 bills are in the pipeline.

Facilitating the introduction of automated solutions in transport is another priority. We will soon need clear regulations to effectively use drones on land and at sea, as well as new rules for autonomous cars.

Third, we must create incentives for moving civil-law transactions online so that people can use mobile applications to carry out the transactions they need. In this regard, Russia has achieved quite a few things. In every region people can apply for documents without losing time at integrated government services centres, and can also use the Unified Public Services Portal to this effect. More and more people are filing court papers online. This year, the number of applications received by Russian general courts in this format exceeded a million. The question of whether elections to government bodies can be held online is a widely debated issue right now.

E-notary services are becoming a reality. A single information system offers the possibility to check the authenticity of any power of attorney. A draft law has been devised to make it easier to obtain public notary services online.

We are working on reforming inheritance and family law. People must have more options when it comes to disposing of their property. Amendments to this effect will come into force on 1 June.

Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences have entered into force. They toughen liability for the use of doping. These measures should help resolve the problem of abuse of all manner of illegal drugs in sport and guarantee transparent rules for participants.

Improving the regulation of business is a key Government priority. The goal is to create an environment that makes entrepreneurship in our country a lucrative and interesting endeavour.

Special regulations are being developed to attract investors. In Russia, investors already can benefit from privileges and preferences as part of the so-called special investment contracts and work in our country’s priority development areas and special administrative regions.

We are putting together a law on protecting and encouraging investment, where the state will guarantee investors that the regulatory environment will not change for the entire project period, as well as legal protection of investments and subsidies for building infrastructure.

Work is underway to codify public law regulations. Thousands of documents adopted at different levels will need to be codified according to general principles, and the administrative law regulations will need to be made more comprehensible.

Improving corporate law is among our priorities. The Government is working to identify approaches that should rid the entrepreneur from duplicating norms in corporate papers.

We have stepped up work to improve government oversight. Clear, understandable and modern regulations should remove restrictions on businesses which now have to deal with inefficient and overlapping regulations. New standards containing updated requirements will be enacted on 1 January 2021. They are being designed with a risk-oriented approach in mind.

The new system will rely on two federal laws. The first one will outline mandatory requirements for carrying out government oversight and supervision measures. The second law on government oversight will determine the group of people involved in supervisory activities, as well as the list of measures, arrangements for their conduct, preventive procedures and a number of other mandatory rules.

Industry laws will need to change as well. A road map for implementing the “regulatory guillotine” mechanism will be submitted to the Government soon. New rules must be synced with the Code of Administrative Offences which is one of the country’s most important documents. The concept of the new code is expected to be finalised before 1 June.

This year we mark 25 years since the adoption of the first part of the Civil Code. The very fact of its adoption signalled the emergence of a new democratic state in our country. Its provisions cover civil law principles, legal capacity and competence of individuals and legal entities, property rights protection guarantees and other property rights, transactions, contracts and statutes of limitation.

A new stage in amending civil law was launched in 2008 with the introduction of new institutions that make life easier for entrepreneurs. Five years ago, only seven percent of claims to recover contractual losses were satisfied. This figure exceeded 50 percent last year.

Improving legal protections in commercial and investment disputes, including those between the state and business, is another priority. The international investment dispute settlement system is reeling, being criticised for excessive costs and lengthy proceedings. All this shows that it is time to change the investment arbitration system. We hear proposals to set up a single international investment tribunal, but this would not guarantee the same level of legal protection for investors, nor will it insure against political manipulation in this field.

It is quite possible that international dispute resolution mechanisms could soon lose their appeal relative to national courts. Unlike courts of arbitration and certain international courts, national courts strictly abide by the principles of due process, and are bound by clear rules regarding the examination and evaluation of evidence. A global Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters is about to be completed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. It would greatly enhance the appeal of national courts, and Russia is interested in the adoption of this convention.

A lot has been done in Russia to overhaul its domestic arbitration system by expanding the scope of disputes that can be settled through arbitration, streamlining procedures enabling international arbitration centres to obtain the status of a permanent arbitration institution. In late April, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre obtained permission to operate in Russia.

Developing national rights protection mechanisms has always been a priority for us. At the same time, being part of the international legal space is also important for us. We work with respective United Nations bodies and international specialised agencies. Combining efforts in criminal investigations is an important aspect of this cooperation. By the end of the month we will have ratified the Second Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.

We work within our integration associations, including the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS, to formulate model laws in various areas being addressed by legal experts in these countries.

We support organisations that facilitate the development of international law, including the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the UN Commission on International Trade Law and the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law.

The conclusion of international treaties in any sphere cannot serve as a goal in itself. Each of them should aim to provide specific benefits for the citizens of one’s own country. States should take a reasonable and judicious approach to foreign policy, and they should honour obligations before their own citizens and the international community.

As of late, certain states are increasingly withdrawing from key international treaties without adequate reasons or explanation; they adopt decisions on unilateral sanctions, heedless of their responsibility. We are not doing this. If we do anything, it is only in response. We try to work under the law.

I am convinced that no agreements between politicians should substitute for international law. It is law alone that makes it possible to guarantee the predictability of international relations, to attain a higher level of trust, while jointly responding to new security and economic challenges, as well as those in the area of environmental protection and culture.