Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: It’s a great honor to be here for a very solemn and important occasion, the opening of this exhibit on writers who were repressed during the Soviet period. I know it’s not lost on any Georgian today that your country is still occupied by Russia and still suffering as we see in this region from Russia’s aggression toward its neighbors. We thought this exhibit was very important and we’re very grateful for the collaboration that we’ve had with the Writer’s House and others to bring it forward because the writers were and are heroes and reflection of Georgia’s culture and protecting Georgia’s unique identity. There’s a quote from Otar Chiladze that I thought was particularly poignant and telling: he said, “Our greatest crime was nothing more than the aspiration for freedom. And even in times of disaster, we must continue along the path of self-determination, of self-assertion, and of self-awareness.”
That, to me, speaks to the courage and the determination of the people of Georgia who have shown such a love of freedom, such a fierce independence, and such a feeling of protection of your unique identity and culture. These writers have been reminders over the centuries that it is Russia who has tried to take Georgia’s unique identity, that has tried to crush Georgia’s language, it’s faith, it’s church; that it is Russia who has tried to deny Georgia its existence, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity. That is another reason why Georgia has always put such an emphasis on its writers as true heroes and defenders of Georgian identity and culture. We are very proud to have this exhibit here today to celebrate, to commemorate, and to honor those Georgian writers who were repressed during the Soviet occupation.
Question about the repression of Soviet times with pressures of today
Ambassador Degnan: As I mentioned, I think this is a reminder of the dangers of anything that curtails freedom of expression. But in Georgia, where you’ve had such a history of fighting, of using both the sword and the pen to defend your right to free expression, your right to defend and protect your identity and your culture, this exhibit is especially important today. I can’t say it any better than Otar Chiladze, so I will just refer you back to his very eloquent quote.
Question about the “foreign agent” law
Ambassador Degnan: The real question here is what is in Georgia’s interest? It’s clear that Georgia doesn’t need either of these versions. It doesn’t need this law. It’s also clear that anyone voting for either of these versions will be directly responsible for jeopardizing Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future. The UN, the U.S., the EU, the Council of Europe; and numerous member states and friends of Georgia from around the world, have all weighed in to urge the government and the Parliament not to proceed with this proposal. This proposal will stop Georgian organizations and groups that are trying to help Georgians: Georgians in need, Georgians who are trying to improve their communities, Georgians who are working for that shared goal of a secure, prosperous democracy. All the work that Georgia’s friends have been doing with Georgian groups for the past 30 years is jeopardized by a proposal, an initiative that Georgia doesn’t need. So, my question is, why proceed? What is the real aim of this law? What is the real purpose behind pursuing legislation that Georgia doesn’t need, and that will be responsible for jeopardizing Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future that the majority of Georgians have made very clear is their choice and their priority?
Question on ruling party officials calling State spokesperson a liar
Ambassador Degnan: What is there to say when people resort to name-calling? The main point here is the United States will continue to support the people of Georgia and their aspirations toward a Euro-Atlantic future, toward a strong and diversified economy, and toward a more stable and secure country. That’s what we’ve been doing for 30 years. That’s what we’re going to continue to do.