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Ambassador’s Remarks at Opening of Subway in Kutaisi Airport
July 31, 2023

Ambassador’s Remarks at Opening of Subway in Kutaisi Airport

Ambassador’s Remarks at Opening of Subway in Kutaisi Airport


Ambassador Remarks on the Event 

I’m very happy to be here for the grand opening of the eighth Subway restaurant here at Kutaisi International Airport.  We have eight franchises throughout Georgia.  This one here in the airport is the second of the freshforward Subways. It is makes us really proud to see an internationally recognized iconic American brand like Subway here in Georgia.  The U.S. Embassy has helped many US companies find Georgian partners so that we can see millions of dollars of investment here in Georgia.

This is creating good jobs.  This is creating economic opportunities here in Kutaisi and the whole Imereti and the whole Georgian region.  It’s also great to see it here at Kutaisi International Airport.  This airport has really become an international hub, bringing millions of tourists here to Georgia to discover this beautiful country.  The U.S. Embassy and USAID have worked with the United Airports of Georgia to not only do skills development for the employees who work here, but also do brand marketing so people get to know Kutaisi International Airport, and through Kutaisi, through all of Georgia.  We’re also looking at maybe expanding operations to things like air aircraft maintenance and repair.  And eventually, I hope we’ll see Kutaisi Airport become a hub for the transport of agricultural products like blueberries, raspberries, and other delicious things that are grown in this whole region.  So, this is a great day to see the connection between America and Georgia through an iconic brand like Subway that brings jobs and good economic opportunities to this whole region.

Questions about cruise ship in Batumi and protests:  

Ambassador Degnan:  Well, again, it’s not important what I think.  What’s important is what the people of Georgia think and they are making it very clear.  No one should expect Georgians to welcome people from a country that occupies 20% of Georgia’s territory.  And that keeps families apart through artificial ABLs that detains Georgian citizens and holds them, sometimes for months at a time.  No one should expect Georgians to welcome people from that country.  And it doesn’t matter whether it’s by land or by sea.  I think the Georgian people are making very clear that this, that they don’t want this.  They’re using their constitutionally protected rights to express that feeling to protest against this. And that is what is allowed in a democracy, and that’s allowed under Georgia’s constitution. 

Question about China strategic partnership:  

Ambassador Degnan:  Well, first, let me congratulate all of the Georgian athletes who participated in the summer university games in Chengdu.  It was great to see the Georgian flag represented there, at that international competition.  In terms of the strategic partnership, of course, it’s the choice of the Georgian government, what kind of relationship it wants to have with China.  Many countries are turning away from the Belt and Road Initiative after a few years seeing that it actually isn’t very beneficial to other countries.   So if Georgia decides to embrace it, I hope it will lead to good results.  But again, it looked like it was an important visit for Georgia and it’s Georgia’s choice, who its partners are going to be.  The United States will remain a strong supporter of Georgia as we have for the past 30 years.  And I think our track record is very positive and very clear as to the concrete benefits that have come from the partnership between the United States and Georgia.  Madloba.

Question about lobbyists’ impact on Saakashvili case:  

Ambassador Degnan:  The question I think comes back to the difference between the Kremlin-inspired law that was rejected by Georgia in March, which targeted Georgian NGOs and civil societies that are working for the better.  The benefit of Georgia and the American law is focused on law firms and lobbyists that are hired by a foreigner to work on behalf of that foreigner.  It’s a very important distinction.  And this, I think we see the impact of the Russian style law, which drove out NGOs and civil society that were doing good work in Russia.  Now, most of them have had to close down or flee.  And that was the focus of the Georgian law that was rejected in March.  And I think, again, I will say there is a lot of transparency already available through Georgian law and regulations.  The information about what donors and NGOs are doing here is readily available.  It’s online if anybody really wants to look for it.  And I think that, so I don’t think this is about transparency that is already readily available here in Georgia.  Madloba.  Thank you.  Nakhvamdis.