Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at USAID’s Unity Through Diversity Program

Question about the event

Ambassador Degnan:  We’re very excited to be here this morning for the launch of USAID’s Unity Through Diversity, a $20 million program designed to bring together Georgia’s ethnic and religious minorities with the majority population to continue Georgia’s long tradition of strengthening its society and strengthening its economy through a unified approach. Georgia has such richness in its diversity and makes the most of ethnic and religious minorities. Working with the majority population is something that Georgia has been doing for centuries. I’ve just seen a wonderful exhibit of many of the Georgians of ethnic backgrounds, who have done so much to protect Georgia’s treasures to contribute to its political development, to contribute to its economic development. This program is designed to continue that, working with the government, working with civil society, and working with local partners. It’s a wonderful opportunity to ensure that Georgia’s ethnic and religious minorities are benefiting from vocational education training, that they have the chance to contribute to their ideas for developing the economy, that they have the opportunity to contribute at the local level with their communities and bringing the richness of Georgia’s diversity to strengthen this country. So, we’re thrilled to be launching USAID’s $20 million Unity Through Diversity program here today.

Question on former DAS Kramer’s call for sanctions

Ambassador Degnan:  Mr. Kramer is a private citizen. He’s a well-respected academic, someone who knows Georgia well and cares very much about Georgia’s future. I don’t want to comment on his statement, but of course, he is someone who’s following what’s going on in Georgia closely, and he cares deeply about Georgia’s success, about Georgia’s security, about its development, and its prosperity. I think taking his comments in that light comes from his experience here.

Question on EU statement calling for a Venice Commission opinion on de-oligarchization law

Ambassador Degnan:  Well, of course, that’s very good advice. When it is coming from the European Commission delegation that is working with Georgia on meeting these recommendations, it’s very important advice. I think there’s some confusion because this law, the version that was drafted in Ukraine, was withdrawn from the Venice Commission. So, there is currently no request to the Venice Commission to review any de-oligarchization laws, whether in Ukraine or in Georgia.

This is a new area of law, which is why it’s so important and valuable to have the legal experts of the Venice Commission review the draft law before it is passed. This, as I said, is a very complicated and important area of law that is new. Getting the opinion of the European legal experts that make up the Venice Commission would be a very useful step for the Georgian government to take for the Georgian Parliament to take before passing this law.