Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to the Media at Launch of Georgian Tourism Industry Alliance

Q: about the event

Ambassador Degnan: This is a wonderful initiative that brings together tourism associations to share their best practices, make a stronger voice, and work together to reinvigorate Georgia’s tourism industry. This is such an important part of Georgia’s economy and this initiative, I think, will play a role in helping to stimulate Georgia’s economic recovery. So, we’re very pleased to be here. This is something USAID has worked on along with tourism associations here. Thank you!

Q: The responsibility of the government in the face of recent events. What should be the responsibility of the PM who saw hatred?

Ambassador Degnan: Of course, it’s the responsibility of the authorities to provide a peaceful environment for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights, including the right to assembly, the right to freedom of expression, and certainly the right for journalists to practice their profession in a safe environment, and I think that is, unfortunately, we didn’t see that on July fifth and sixth, and now I hope there’ll be a greater appreciation of how valuable, how important these freedoms are, and there will be a better effort to ensure that Georgia’s citizens can exercise their constitutional freedoms in a safe environment.

Q: Should the PM resign?

Ambassador Degnan: Let me start by saying how sorry we are about the death of Lekso. This was really tragic and shocking, I think, to everyone and really our hearts and prayers go out to his family and to his friends and to his colleagues and to all of you journalists who may have worked with him at one point or another. This was just shocking and I know it is part of a pattern of attacks on journalists and again, violence in any form is unacceptable, it’s just unacceptable, but particularly so when it is aimed at disrupting people from exercising their constitutional rights, whether its freedom of the press, media freedom, or freedom of assembly, the freedom to have a march for dignity down a street, whether you are the minority or the majority. There is a responsibility to protect citizens and to prevent violence. That is fundamental. And on your other questions: It is for the people of Georgia to decide who is going to lead you. There’s a democratic process here. Again, we would want to see the democratic process used and not violence in the streets. So, was it the third question? I haven’t had a chance to see the Prime Minister’s comments today. So, I really can’t respond to that last one. I haven’t seen them. I’ve been visiting the Ken Walker rehabilitation clinic here in Batumi, we’ve been seeing your botanical gardens and a wonderful beekeeping project that is run and initiated by women beekeepers here. There are so many inspiring and encouraging things happening in this country to try and stimulate your economy and get it back on track after COVID and I think it’s important that Georgians also feel hope in the future of their country. Thank you.

Q: about the recent comment made by Levan Vasadze accusing the ambassadors of the destabilization in the country and supporting LGBTQ+ groups. We all know that Vasadze is affiliated with Russia, and we see many efforts and hybrid warfare from their side. What is the United States doing to conquer this kind of hybrid war?

Ambassador Degnan: I think we all know who pays for that kind of pro-Kremlin disinformation. And those people who want to incite violence here, create instability, are busy at work, doing the Kremlin’s work, to cause dissension, cause instability here in Georgia. And I think Georgians are smart enough to know exactly who’s behind that, who’s paying for it.