House Democracy Partnership Chair and Co-Chair Statement at Parliament (April 16)
Congressman Price: Thank you Mr. Speaker, and thanks to all of your colleagues and many many friends here in Georgia, who welcomed us so warmly. We always feel at home in Georgia. We certainly feel at home with our Parliamentary colleagues, with our shared aspiration for democracy – a democracy that works; not just free and fair elections, as important as they are; democracy that works between elections, as we form representative institutions that respond to all the needs of our people. With recent constitutional changes in Georgia, it is even more clear that the Parliament is the first branch of government, the Parliament is the front lines in term of engaging with people all over the country, translating their aspirations, their hopes, their dreams, into policy for this wonderful country. So, we on the House Democracy Partnership are a bipartisan commission, we have eight members here this week. They range from California to Nevada to Virginia to Florida to North Carolina in my case and both of our political parties. You know, we have lots of debates in the U.S. Congress these days but there is no debate about our commitment to democracy and our admiration for Georgia and Georgia’s struggle to establish a parliamentary democracy. And so we as the House Democracy Partnership have been engaged for over ten years now. In this effort, we have been here repeatedly. We have welcomed your members, your staff members, and others to the United States repeatedly. They have been a part of international gatherings, where we strengthen one another and we share best practices, and we talk about the fact that our work is never done. You know, nobody has a perfect example anywhere of parliamentary democracy. It needs to change, it will always change, and the challenge is to be responsive to the kinds of things we need to work on in our respective societies. So, we are doing a full day here, speaking with factional leaders, with committee leaders, speaking with dozens of members of the Parliament, and we are looking forward to that. We have gotten off a good start this morning with the Speaker and his associates, and we are very much looking forward to this visit, which is part, I should say, of a visit to the region. We came here from Ukraine, who is also our longtime partner and, of course, a long time ally in the struggle for democracy and self-determination. We will be going to Armenia as well, Georgia’s neighbor and we are aware of the changes there and the interest in parliamentary cooperation. You can imagine that is very promising. And then finally Moldova, a country which is also struggling and aspiring to democratic development. So, thank you for your interest in our visit. We look forward to more opportunities later in the day to discuss what has transpired. But, we do appreciate the warm welcome. I will turn now to the co-chair of the House Democracy Partnership Congressman Vern Buchanan from the State of Florida.
Congressman Vern Buchanan: I want to thank the Speaker for his hospitality and visionary leadership. I have maybe a little bit of a unique perspective. I came originally to Georgia in the eighties. So a lot has changed since that period of time, but I have always loved the spirit of the Georgian people. Our goal is to work together, on a bipartisan basis, in terms of governance, and we look forward to the next couple of days of meetings. But I am also the ranking member, the Republican leader on trade. We have talked with the Speaker, as well as our members, about a free trade agreement. I think it is time, something that has been talked about for five years. I am also hopeful on the side that it is something that we can also work on because it will mean more jobs and better paychecks. I look forward to the next couple of days. The Speaker had mentioned a stronger parliament, a stronger democracy. I totally agree with that, and I know all of our members do. Thank you.