Moscow: The State Duma has approved a new edition of the Law on State Policy on Fellow Citizens.
Under the new law Russian citizens permanently residing abroad and persons living outside of Russia, who choose spiritual and cultural contact with Russia, will be described as `fellow citizens`.
"The essence of this initiative is stronger relations between Russia and the Russian world based on equality and partnership, consolidation of Russian communities, and preservation of the Russian ethnic and cultural space through federal, regional and non-governmental initiatives," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said while introducing the bill.
The recognition of persons not naturalized in Russia as `fellow citizens` will be based on the principle of self-identification supported with public or professional activity, the bill says.
"There will be no registration of fellow citizens, as an analysis of relations between foreign states and their nationals abroad and possible foreign political, financial and legal consequences of that step shows its inexpediency," the bill says.
"At the same time, fellow citizens are free to be registered at public organizations and receive membership certificates," the bill says.
In keeping with the Russian foreign political concept of July 12, 2008, "principles and goals of the state policy on fellow citizens will be adjusted together with forms of their support in culture, language, education and information aspects."
Besides, the bill gives additional powers to regional authorities in the formation of councils interacting with fellow citizens.
The bill has provisions on the world congress of fellow citizens, the world coordinating council of Russian fellow citizens and relevant coordinating councils in countries of permanent residence of fellow citizens formed at the World Congress of Fellow Citizens in St Petersburg in 2006.
Self-identification should be the principle of fellow citizenship, the Public Chamber`s Commission for Inter-Ethnic Relations and the Freedom of Conscience said on May 18. The law was adopted in 1999 and grew obsolete, the commission said.
"This law is declarative. It does not meet the needs and the capacities of Russia," State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin said.
"The strict compliance with legal norms will make fellow citizens about 150 million people in Poland, Finland and even Alaska," the Russian Foreign Ministry`s Alexander Chepurin said.
For the enactment of this law, government had presented the bill to parliament in March.