Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s remarks at the McDonald’s Bread Factory Opening Ceremony

Q-n: We want to know more about this project and [about] the importance of this project.

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I am really delighted to be here for the opening of the McDonald’s bread factory. This is a great example of a combination of American best business practices and Georgian ingenuity and commitment to high quality products. This was a 23 million lari investment by McDonald’s group here in Georgia, but what is really important is that it is bringing good quality jobs that will help at least seventy families. As you know McDonald’s employs thousands of people throughout Georgia and this factory is going to help bring good jobs to at least seventy families in this area. What is also really important is that these bread buns for your Big Mac and your cheeseburgers, they are going to be sold not just in Georgia, but in Armenia and Azerbaijan and in Southern Russia. So, that gives Georgia a much more important role in international trade for this region. It is the very kind of a regional initiative that we are hoping we will see more of here in Georgia. But today is a day to celebrate the opening of this new bread factory here and I am very pleased to be part of it. It is part of a USAID’s program for Georgian agricultural products that need the certification, very high standards that McDonalds requires for lettuce and tomatoes and all of the ingredients, cheese that go into your Big Mac. So, we are really thrilled to be doing this in partnership with McDonald’s here in Georgia. Thank you.

Q-n about meeting with Tbilisi Pride representatives and whether the Pride organizers have the safety guarantees.

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: The United States Embassy meets with all the NGOs that defend human rights of all kinds and we had a good discussion with a number of NGOs on the kinds of challenges that they face. The United Nations, the Georgian Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, all defend human rights and protect citizens’ freedoms, basic freedoms like the freedom of expression, the freedom to assembly, and the police have the responsibility to ensure that citizens can exercise those rights, those freedoms of expression and assembly and not be attacked for doing that or not be threatened because that is what they want to do. So, I think there is an awareness of that and an understanding of the responsibility to make sure that those who are peacefully exercising their fundamental freedoms are able to do so and not be prevented from that by threats. I really, I feel so sorry for people who have so much hate in their hearts that they would even consider threatening people or attacking people. It is very sad and it is certainly not what the Georgian constitution promises its citizens. Thank you.

Q-n about the suspension of the Labor Party funding. The question is, what do you think, whether you approve of it or not.

Q-n: Shalva Natelashvili stated at the briefing today that due to the termination of funding for his party, he expected tougher statements from you regarding the electoral reform. Can you please evaluate his speech and what can you tell about the funding termination for his party?

Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I did not hear Mr. Shalva’s comments. I understand that some parties abstained from voting on the electoral reform because they disagreed with the addition of punitive measures that impacted some parties, the Labor Party. That is for Georgia’s Parliamentarians to debate and decide, and what I think is positive here is that the electoral reform process was inclusive. It was comprehensive. It did give the stakeholders the opportunity to debate the issues, and in the end, some parties disagreed with elements that were not part of the April 19th agreement and that were added subsequently, and that is why they abstained from voting.