Ambassador Degnan's Remarks to Media at USAID Civic Education Fair
Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: Georgia’s success as a secure, prosperous democracy depends on today’s students, and education is the key to their success. Today, we are celebrating Georgia’s future leaders at the annual Civics Teacher’s Fair. This is the 10th annual fair that recognizes Civics teachers all over Georgia who have been doing such an incredible job to help develop Civics education for Georgia’s students. This is designed to develop active, productive students and citizens who will contribute to making their communities stronger and better all over the country. I’ve seen some of the exhibits here, examples of what students and their teachers have been doing over the last year, and it’s incredibly impressive; they are reaching out to improve their communities to help others in their communities. This is civil society in the making, and it is impressive to see what these Civics teachers have given to their communities. The United States, through USAID and PH International, is very proud to support this for 10 years. We see what an incredible difference it’s making in so many communities throughout Georgia. So, I’m thrilled to be here today. I hope you’ll take a look at some of the exhibits.
Question on President Zourabichvili’s interview with Priveli
Ambassador Degnan: Let me start by saying that yesterday I had a great day. I was in Samtskhe Javakheti, so I did not see the President’s interview, but I can say that from what I’ve seen in this country, the decisions are being made by the people of Georgia. I think we saw that just a couple of weeks ago when over a hundred thousand Georgians came out to peacefully express their decision, their clear choice for a European future. There was no doubt about that decision, and that was true in Kutaisi, Batumi, Akhalstikhe, and other towns all over this country, where people came out peacefully to say, We want a European future.
Question on Georgia’s chance for candidate status
Ambassador Degnan: Georgia’s candidate status depends on whether the reforms are implemented. The European Union has laid out a very clear roadmap to guide Georgia to Europe. That depends on everybody. That depends on Parliament. It depends on other stakeholders. It depends on civil society being able to contribute to coming up with the reforms that are needed. These are not new reforms. These are the same things that Georgia has been working on step by step and has made really good progress on in some cases. Of course, there’s more to do. This has only been a project in the making for 25 years, so this is not one person’s project; this is all the citizens of Georgia. This is all the elected leaders of Georgia who need to come together and do this in an inclusive manner. They need to stop spending so much time fighting each other and spend more time working on getting these 12 recommendations fulfilled in a meaningful way, not in a superficial way, but in a way that will really improve Georgia’s democracy. That’s what the European Union member states are looking for, to see whether Georgia is committed to its democracy, to building a strong democracy. We saw that the people of Georgia are committed. This is what they want, and I hope that their government will listen to the people of Georgia and take the necessary steps.
Question on the possible pardoning of Nika Gvaramia
Ambassador Degnan: That is a decision for the President to make, but we all know that media freedom is very important to a democracy. Here in Georgia, where you’ve seen a narrowing of the media environment, I think it sends an important message to know that media is supported. The public needs to be able to have accurate information about different views, not all the same views. As we see the environment narrow here, I think there’s a real risk that people are not being exposed to a range of views and that makes it hard for them to make informed decisions. So I would hope the emphasis in Georgia remains on having a robust, independent media, because it’s so important to any democracy, and certainly to one that is trying to build its institutions as Georgia is right now.