Ambassador Degnan’s media comments at the opening ceremony of the Georgian Bar Association
Q-n about the event: opening of the Georgian Bar Association house
Ambassador Degnan: The United States has been strongly supporting Georgia for many years as it works to establish an independent, impartial judiciary. The Georgian Bar Association plays a very important role in Georgia’s judicial system, ensuring and promoting the integrity and the professionalism of attorneys throughout the country. The Georgian Bar Association also plays an important role in helping the public better understand why an independent and impartial judiciary, a professional judiciary, is so important to the administration of justice in Georgia, but also to Georgia’s strong democracy.
There’s been some real progress made in judicial reform over the last decades, and we have been very proud in the United States to work with the Georgia Bar Association since 2005 in developing the rules, the ethics rules, and other judicial practices that ensure the professionalism of the legal profession. So again, we are delighted to be here and delighted to have supported the development of this Georgian Bar Association. Being here today shows how much progress the Georgian Bar Association has made as an independent self-regulating entity. Thank you very much.
Q-n about the Georgian President’s decision to release Nika Gvaramia
Ambassador Degnan: The United States welcomes President Zourabichvili’s decision to pardon Nika Gvaramia. This case has been problematic from the very beginning, and it has added to the deep polarization that we’ve seen in Georgia for many years. The President’s decision is an important contribution to reducing polarization in Georgia. This case has divided society and has led to confusion. Really, it has only benefitted Russia. This is not the time for Georgians to be divided, this is the time for Georgians to come together.
Follow up q-n if the Ambassador’s statements about Gvaramia can be seen as interference into Georgia’s judiciary.
Ambassador Degnan: President Zourabichvili has the prerogative of pardoning. She made it very clear this was her decision. And, the United States and others, the European Union and others have been very clear from the beginning of our concerns about this. But expressing concerns is what friends do when they have concerns. It does not mean that it’s interference. It’s simply expressing concerns. And I am confident that President Zourabichvili takes her pardoning authority very seriously.
Q-n about the report on 12 recommendations for Georgia to get the EU candidate status.
Ambassador Degnan: The report yesterday, the comments yesterday regarding progress that Georgia has made, I think, acknowledged that there has been important progress on 3 of the 12 recommendations, and that there is more to be done in the other areas. The Parliament’s decision to not proceed with the deoligarchization law was very well received and important. Venice Commission, the European Commission and the European Council have been very clear that the bill, as drafted, the current bill is not the way to go. That a better way to address undue political and financial influence in Georgia’s democratic system is through systemic reforms that really get to this very difficult problem. Everyone understands that the reforms that are set forth in the 12 recommendations are difficult, but they’re so important and they’re important for Georgia, not just for the European Union membership process, but for Georgia’s own democratic development and the strength of Georgia’s own system. So again, I think it’s very encouraging that the [European] Commission recognized three recommendations that have been fulfilled and has provided a clear roadmap on the steps that Georgia should take, including in having an inclusive process with civil society and other stakeholders being part of the program going forward. This is how Georgia is going to get the positive result that we all want to see in December of candidate status. But the commission has made it very clear these steps must be fulfilled in order to get a positive decision in December.
And I sincerely hope that everyone will come together in the coming months to make real progress on finishing this task. Madloba.