Ambassador Degnan: This is a very exciting event today to watch the paratroopers. Georgia, the United States, the U.K., Poland – many NATO partners and Allies jumped today here in Georgia on this gorgeous day. This is also a very important event as it demonstrates that our forces are ready, they are interoperable, and they have the mobility to respond when needed. This kind of exercise is very important to do regularly. The event today is part of the larger exercise – Agile Spirit that has been going on for the last week or so, allowing the forces of 15 different Allied nations and partners to work together on perfecting their skills and ensuring operability. Regular exercises like this deter aggression and reassure people and our allies, that when we are ready, we are able to work together and we have the training and equipment that we need. So, it is a great day, very exciting, and I am so pleased to be here.
Q-n about the annulment of the April 19 agreement, a way out of the situation, the sides blaming one another for not implementing it, and some of the opposition members talking about the importance of possible sanctions
Ambassador Degnan: All the statements, including our statement, all the statements that I have read, have made it clear how disappointed Georgia’s friends are that the Georgian Dream decided to withdraw from this agreement. It is the best roadmap negotiated by Georgia’s political leaders over six months for the kind of reforms that Georgia needs to do. The idea, the value of the agreement was that the parties negotiated this together, and committed together to pursue these reforms. So, it is our hope that the agreement can continue to provide a kind of a structure, a framework for the parties to work together. Unilateral reforms are not what Georgia needs. Georgia needs multiparty reforms that all of the leaders elected by Georgia’s voters can pursue and advance. So, I hope that we will see the agreement remain in force and continue to provide the kind of guidance that Georgian leaders to implement the necessary reforms. The focus needs to be on fulfilling the commitments that Georgian Dream and all of the signatories to the agreement made. They gave their word that they would implement this agreement in good faith and they need to continue to do that. Sanctions, in my view, are premature until we see that there is a lack of good faith to fulfill the commitments that were made by the signatories to this agreement. We will continue to urge all parties who have not signed to sign. It is important that this is a broad agreement. But, in the meantime, those who did sign gave their word and committed to fulfill this agreement. Thank you.
Q-n about the pre-election campaign and expectations re the elections
Ambassador Degnan: We have already seen that the campaign is well underway. There have been very important electoral reforms adopted as a result of the implemented agreements. They provide the opportunity for these elections in October to be an improvement over previous elections. They must do the required training. This will be an improvement for the Central Election Commission. The districts and provincial election commissions must have the training they need, and the voters must have the training to understand what is different, what is new, and make sure that they have confidence in the outcome of the election results. That confidence is very important to ensure that there is going to be progress and a strong atmosphere for continuing the reform work that needs to be done – and also to ensure that voters are well-represented. A key component of this is the media. The media always plays an important role, but particularly during an election campaign. The media is how voters have the information to make an informed decision. The attacks that we have seen recently, the violent attacks, but also the threats and the bullying against journalists are not only unconstitutional, according to Georgia’s constitution, but it is an attack against the core, a core pillar of democracy. Journalists need to know that they can go out and do their job, get the information that the public needs, and hold institutions accountable without intimidation or fear of violence. And, I sincerely hope there will be clear messages from the government that there are consequences to violent attacks against the media that any kind of attacks – verbal, bullying, intimidation – will not be tolerated. In that environment, I think, voters will be able to receive the information they need. Thank you.