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Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at Digital Education Closure Event
June 29, 2021

Q-n about the event

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the conclusion of a ten-month program designed to modernize teaching methods through digitalization. This is a part of $1.5 million program that the United States supports for 300 different projects around Georgia that are designed and implemented by alumni of our exchange programs. In this case, for the municipalities of Keda and Akhmeta, this was a chance to help teachers develop new skills for teaching students’ critical thinking, problem solving, team work, leadership, all the skills that everyone needs these days to come out into the world to get a good job. I am delighted to be here today to support this wonderful project.

Q-n about a joint statement from Judges about calls for pausing the appointment process and the process going forward despite calls from international partners

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: We were very glad to see the judges’ comments that they are ready to work with everyone to improve Georgia’s judicial system. The United States and other international donors have been helping Georgia do just that – improve the judicial system – for over 25 years. This is because the rule of law and a strong impartial judiciary is a pre-requisite for joining NATO and the European Union. Georgia’s political leaders also agreed to ambitious judicial reform through a broad, inclusive, multiparty process. The April 19th Agreement lays out a roadmap for doing that, including pausing the supreme court appointments until there has been broad, inclusive, multiparty discussion and consultation regarding what judicial reform should look like to strengthen and improve Georgia’s judiciary. In that respect, I think we are all hoping that that debate, those consultations in a working group, can happen soon with all the stakeholders: civil society, professional organizations, political parties.  That is what Georgia’s political leaders agreed to do in the April 19th Agreement, no side agreements, no secret agreements, it is right there – in the April 19th Agreement.

Follow up question: Is the ruling party not fulfilling the April 19th Agreement by appointing judges and what leverages do we gave to pause the process

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: The High Council of Justice put forward its nominations, it is now in the hands of the parliament to hold to the agreement that the MP’s signed, the political leaders signed on April 19, which includes a clear provision to pause the supreme court — to pause the Supreme Court appointment process — until there has been a broad, inclusive, multiparty consultation regarding judicial reform. The Agreement lays out a roadmap for the kind of judicial reform that is needed, including the assessment of the third and fourth waves to see how that’s being implemented, where there needs to be further improvements.  This should be done in a collaborative, consultative way, similar to what was done with electoral reform legislation. That is what the parties agreed to do and I think that’s all people are expecting to have happen. Now the ball is basically in parliament’s court.  Parliament has the authority to pause this process now and that is what they agreed to do.

Q-n regarding the final adoption of electoral reform bill and Lelo party not voting in favor of the bill despite the fact that they have signed the April 19th Agreement. 

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: What was important was that there was an inclusive consultative process involving the opposition, involving stakeholders to develop this law. There were elements of it that were added beyond what was discussed in the April 19th Agreement, that is fair enough, and some of the opposition didn’t agree with all of the new elements that were added, but that’s the political process happening in parliament as it should.  I think what is important is to have this kind of debate and consultation and with the people who are involved in the issue instead of unilateral actions that don’t necessarily reflect all of the voices, all of the parties that the Georgian voters elected the last October. Thank you.

Q-n about the Pride Week and groups planning on holding counter rallies 

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: Georgia has been fighting for human rights for over a hundred years. There are some who apparently want to use violence to prevent Georgian citizens from exercising their fundamental freedoms of expression and of assembly. This creates a serious problem for the law enforcement agencies that have a responsibility to ensure that Georgian citizens exercise these fundamental freedoms of assembly and expression, and we are all hoping that that will be able to happen in a peaceful environment, without the use of violence, to prevent people from exercising the human rights, their basic freedoms. That’s all.