Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at Parliament
Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: First, I want to wish Georgians a blessed Annunciation Day. I know that this is a very important day, and I wish you all happiness on this day. As to your question, it’s always very useful and helpful to talk with the Speaker about the issues we are working on together. We came today to talk about whether there are additional ways the United States could support the Parliament’s legal reform efforts. We’ve been working together very well for years on judicial reform, and we look forward to the possibility of continuing that because we know that judicial reform and fighting corruption are two of the 12 priorities that are part of Georgia acquiring candidate status later this year. We’re very hopeful that Georgia will be able to get that positive answer in December. We also understand that there is still more work to do, as we saw from the Venice Commission’s opinion last month in March. There are still a number of steps that need to be taken to meet the judicial reform requirements, including a thorough reform of the High Council of Justice. This has been a recommendation in the past four Venice Commission opinions that have been issued. There remains a lot of work to be done to meet that requirement. On your question about candidate status, we feel that this is a very positive step because this is an opportunity to address allegations of corruption in the judiciary. This is an opportunity to demonstrate this government’s commitment to fighting corruption and to establishing a truly independent and impartial judiciary. At the Summit for Democracy in Washington last week, Georgia, along with President Biden and over a hundred different countries, pledged to fight corruption, pledged to make protecting and promoting an independent judiciary and rule of law priorities because those are so important to a healthy functioning democracy. So we hope that the government will embrace this opportunity to address allegations of corruption, and really take meaningful steps to create an independent, impartial judiciary.
Question on People’s Power’s latest statement
Ambassador Degnan: I don’t know what they’re talking about on phone calls. On the second front, I will say again, as I have said many times before, that is 100% false. Absolutely false. There is no reason why the United States would want to put Georgia in jeopardy. We’ve spent 30 years trying to help you strengthen your ability to defend your borders, trying to improve your security and your safety by working with the Georgian Defense Forces, by working with the Coast Guard, and the Border Police.
Why would we put Georgia at risk? We are very sensitive to the position that Georgia is in. With 20% of your territory occupied by an aggressor like Russia, we absolutely would never put Georgia in that position. I have said this many times before. It is concerning when we hear this conspiracy theory repeated and sometimes echoed by members of the ruling party. This is very concerning when they in particular know that this is 100% false.
Question on the alleged American citizen denied entry
Ambassador Degnan: I don’t know this person. I never heard about this case until Director Liluashvili raised it in the media yesterday. No one contacted us about it, including this individual. We respond when American citizens contact the embassy for assistance. There’s no way we could keep track of all the Americans who are coming to Georgia. Lots of people want to come to Georgia. It’s a fabulous place to come. I don’t know this individual, I don’t know what he was coming to do. Maybe he was coming to climb Mount Kazbegi. I have no idea. We didn’t know about this case until it was raised in the media yesterday. There’s no connection [to this report and the designations against the four individuals].
Question about the rule for accrediting journalists at Parliament
Ambassador Degnan: The United States is a strong proponent of robust independent media, and we are also a strong proponent of professional, ethical journalists. That combination is how you ensure that the public gets accurate, balanced information. It is certainly up to the Speaker of Parliament to establish the rules of decorum for the Parliament. I know we have accreditation requirements for our Congress as well. As I said when these rules were announced, what’s really important is how they’re implemented. We need to see if they’re implemented in a fair and impartial way.