Deputy Assistant Secretary Bridget Brink’s and Ambassador Kelly’s comments to media on the sidelines of the McCain Conference (September 12)
Q-n: About the meaning of the conference
Ambassador Kelly: Well I think first of all the fact that we have much higher level and much broader participation is a real tribute to everything Georgia is trying to accomplish and is an indication of just how much support there is for Georgia and how much concern there is that Georgia really succeed. And I think that we had a wonderful debate that I just participated in. It was great that the Prime Minister and the President also very openly spoke about the political and security challenges facing Georgia.
Q-n: You mentioned that Georgians look over their shoulders when they make decisions. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that and can you name some cases that make you feel like that?
Ambassador Kelly: I don’t have any specific cases, this is anecdotal. What I was trying to do is to draw a contrast between our perspective in the United States, where you had one judge 6,000 miles away from Washington who felt that he could stand up to the power of the head of government and stop an executive order because in his view, in his review of the appropriateness of it, he felt that it needed to have some changes made. My point in raising that particular episode is just to show what an important role the judiciary has. The judges have to feel empowered to have a sense that their role is just as important as the role of the Executive. I was just trying to draw a contrast, but I don’t have any specific cases in mind here in Georgia. It’s just something I’ve heard from American businesses here, and it’s just something that I think people should be at least aware that there is that perception.
Q-n: What do you think about the proposal of President Margvelashvili about the constitution? Is it right to have alternative amendments to the constitution and will it serve to achieve political consensus between political parties in Georgia?
DAS Brink: Thanks for the question, it’s a really important one. I had a chance to talk about the constitutional amendments with members of the government and the Parliament during my visit here. The question of constitutional reform is of course a question that is appropriate for the duly elected Parliament and the people of Georgia. That said, I can say that from the United Sates, we had two recommendations. The first one is that in such an important endeavor as constitutional change that it is very important that the Parliament and the government exhaust every possible opportunity to achieve consensus on the document. The second one, as we have long said, is that it’s also very important to follow all the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
Q-n: In the Rustavi 2 case, you are aware of the campaign launched two years ago against the company. How important is it for a democracy to have a critical media outlet in the country?
DAS Brink: Well we have had a longstanding position that in any democracy, including my democracy, it’s very important to have a pluralistic media environment. This is something we strongly support. It’s good for the education and availability of information for citizens, and that’s our position also with regard to Georgia.
Q-n: Regarding the constitution, is it possible to have a document that will have national consensus from political parties and civil society as well?
DAS Brink: I don’t know if it’s possible, but we strongly encourage it on a document that is this important—that every possible attempt to achieve consensus is made.