Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: I’m here today for the launch of the new USAID Public Defender’s Office partnership program. The constitution of Georgia recognized the importance of protecting human rights by creating the Public Defender’s Office with a mandate to do just that. This is something that professionals in the Public Defender’s Office take very seriously and work very hard to help the people of Georgia, and to hold their government agencies and officials accountable, and to ensure that the human rights of all of Georgia’s citizens are protected. This is very difficult and demanding work, and they are far too often attacked unfairly for doing what Georgia’s constitution requires and mandates them to do. For the United States, strengthening democracy and protecting human rights is at the very center of our foreign policy: here in Georgia and around the world. And that is one reason why we have appreciated the close partnership that we’ve had with the Public Defender’s Office here in Georgia. This is why we’re very grateful for the excellent cooperation that we’ve had, and we’re excited about this new program that is a direct grant to the Public Defender’s Office. We are confident that this program is going to further strengthen the effectiveness of the Public Defender’s Office in its core role of protecting the human rights of every Georgian citizen, just as Georgia’s constitution mandates it.
Question about sanctions evasion
Ambassador Degnan: These are very serious allegations, and as I’ve said before, this kind of discussion, in my view, should be held government to government and not through the media. No offense to the media, but I think there are some issues that need direct communication, particularly when Russia is waging, a war against Ukraine. It should be discussed government to government. I heard the Georgian government has responded to these accusations and Mr. Arakhamia has not produced any evidence. So I would encourage them to discuss this government to government through diplomatic channels instead of doing this in public, because again, this kind of back and forth between Georgia and Ukraine only benefits Russia. Ukraine is fighting for every city, for every life. And this is not the time when Georgia and Ukraine to be against each other.
This is the time for these two countries to come together against the occupier of both of their countries.
Question about Georgia’s European Union status
Ambassador Degnan: The people of Georgia came out very clearly on June 20th, and in poll after poll, expressing their overwhelming support for EU membership and for the EU path forward. I think the moment is here now for the government of Georgia to work with all the stakeholders, including opposition parties, including civil society to address the conditions and recommendations that the European Council gave that is a clear way forward for Georgia to candidates status. They couldn’t have made it clearer. These are the steps that Georgia needs to take. And when that’s accomplished, hopefully before the end of the year, then Georgia too will have candidate status. This is a very straightforward response from the European Council, from the European Union to Georgia: that Georgia is part of Europe and the European Union wants to welcome Georgia in, but needs Georgia to demonstrate its commitment to democracy and to the reforms. None of these reforms are new.
These are all the same reforms that Georgia has been working on and making progress on and needs to make more progress on now. So I think this is the moment for the government and for society to come together to unify for the path to European Union membership. And I hope that that is what we’re going to see in the coming months.