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Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at state Laboratory of Agriculture
July 13, 2023

Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at state Laboratory of Agriculture

Question about the event 

Ambassador Degnan:  I’m very happy to be here today for this important donation that we’re making to support public health here in Georgia. I just wanted to start with a comment on the events last Saturday at Lisi Lake. It was very sad to see people so filled with hate, using violence to prevent a peaceful, private event from occurring, especially when they claim to be acting in God’s name.

Now, people may disagree about many things, but I think we can all agree that Christian values, first and foremost, are about compassion, love, tolerance, and respect; and the fact that all people are created in God’s image. We saw last year at the events that the police know how to protect citizens and control protestors. I was assured the day before last Saturday’s event by senior officials at the Ministry of Internal Affairs that the protestors would not be allowed to break through the police periphery, and that the protestors would be kept a safe distance from the people attending the concert. None of that happened. We saw none of that. In fact, an unruly mob was allowed to walk for several kilometers through the streets of Tbilisi calling for violence. They were allowed not only to breach the police perimeter, but to enter the site and vandalize, loot, and destroy property with no response from the police. It’s very concerning to see what is a seemingly coordinated series of attacks on citizens in the streets of Tbilisi. These same extremists that we saw on Saturday were the same extremists that organized the violence in 2021. They are on their Facebook sites, caught on video, calling for violence; saying that they’re going to crush jaws and spill blood; walking through the streets of Tbilisi threatening people with violence; they are proud to say they are for violence. I think everyone will feel a lot safer in Tbilisi when these people who are on video are arrested and prosecuted. 

Question about allegations of violations by Internal Ministry

Ambassador Degnan: We are all following cases like this very carefully. I understand the Ministry of Internal Affairs is looking into this. I would hope that he would be afforded his Constitutionally protected rights. I think the Public Defender is also looking into it. That is their responsibility, as it used to be the responsibility of the State Inspector’s Service, to investigate claims against law enforcement. So there are the institutions in Georgia to respond to claims like this, and one would hope that they would still be allowed to do their jobs.

Question about the NATO Summit 

Ambassador Degnan: The message from the Vilnius Summit was very clear. The door is wide open for Georgia and for Ukraine. The thing that hasn’t changed is that Allies want Georgia to become a member of NATO. The steps that Georgia has to take to walk through that door have been clear for some time. It is in Georgia’s hands to do the reforms that are required. They’re essentially the same reforms that are required for EU membership.

It’s reforming the judiciary. It’s improving Georgia’s democratic institutions so that Georgia has both the military capability and the political democratic stability and institutions to sit at the NATO table. That has not changed, and everyone, all Allies, the United States in particular, are supporting Georgia in trying to make those reforms. We just need to see political will on the part of the Georgian government to do the reforms that are necessary. So, the clear message from Vilnius is that the door is open for Georgia, and Allies want Georgia to be a member. I think Foreign Minister Darchiashvili did a very good job representing Georgia. 

Follow up on Georgia’s representation at the summit 

Ambassador Degnan: This summit was not focused on that issue. Obviously, Russia’s war in Ukraine was the centerpiece of the summit, and what we saw there once again was renewed unity by the allies, a recommitment to supporting Ukraine, to supporting Georgia, and Moldova, to supporting sovereign nations’ right to choose their own alliances, their own memberships. This is fundamental, and this is basically what Russia is trying to take away from countries like Georgia and Ukraine. The allies made it very clear that that is unacceptable. All nations, all sovereign nations should be able to protect their territorial integrity, and should be able to choose their own security alliances. Georgia has chosen to become a member of NATO, and NATO welcomes Georgia as a member as soon as Georgia does the reforms that it needs to do.