Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at Georgian Farmer’s Association Dairy Event
Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: It’s a real pleasure to be here this evening for the presentation of this wonderful new catalog of traditional Georgian dairy products. This is a project that the United States Department of Agriculture has funded over the past five years that has included all kinds of support for Georgia’s farmers and dairy producers. It’s a wonderful, public-private partnership that includes the Georgian Farmers Association, the Ministry of Agriculture, and of course the United States Department of Agriculture through Land of Lakes Venture 37. This project has been so successful that the Department of Agriculture decided to extend it for two years and add additional funding. It has helped Georgian dairy producers increase the milk production of their cows by 62%, and we know that increased production, increased quality means increased income for Georgia’s farmers and dairy producers. What’s great about this catalog is that it presents some of Georgia’s most unique cheeses and dairy products. This is part of Georgia’s cultural heritage. This is part of Georgia’s unique tradition. The United States Embassy is very proud to work with Georgia’s farmers and dairy producers, not only to increase production and quality, but also to help preserve these traditions and methods that are so much a part of Georgia’s cultural heritage. So, I’m thrilled to be here tonight.
Question about former President Saakashvili
Ambassador Degnan: I haven’t seen the CNN piece. I know we’re all following the welfare of Mr. Saakashvili with great attention and concern. It’s very important that this hearing proceeds in a timely fashion. There’s human life at stake, and when that’s the case, the focus should be on ensuring that Mr. Saakashvili or anyone in his position is receiving the medical care they need—both the medical care and the psychological care that is needed. We have said, as has the Public Defender, and many others: it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that appropriate medical care is provided. This hearing will help establish what kind of care Mr. Saakashvili needs, and that’s why the hearing needs to proceed in a timely fashion. There’s no time for delay.
Question about Nika Gvaramia
Ambassador Degnan: From the very beginning, there have been obviously questions about both the timing and the charges in Mr. Gvaramia’s case. I think particularly when it involves the head of a major independent media outlet, it’s very important that the public understand and see that this is being handled in an impartial and transparent way. This has been our comment since the beginning, including when the sentence was passed. It seemed like a disproportionately severe sentence for even the charges brought against him. So, I think those questions continue and remain, and in this highly polarized climate where the media space is being narrowed, it is really important for the public to remove any question of selective prosecution, political interference, and prosecution, and be sure that journalists are not afraid to do their jobs. It’s just too important to have a robust media environment, including in Georgia.