Ambassador McKee: I’m pleased to be here on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development, based out of Washington’s headquarters, visiting our tremendous USAID staff here in Georgia and meeting with our Georgian partners. I just met with Speaker Papuashvili. It was a great opportunity for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the strengths of the United States-Georgia bilateral relationship and the positive impact that the U.S.-Georgia partnership has had on Georgia’s development goals, including the aspirations of the people of Georgia for EU integration that will increase the security and prosperity in Georgia for all of Georgia’s citizens. In a few minutes, I will be meeting with the Prime Minister, and I look forward to our discussion.
I was asked to talk about our 30 years of partnership, and I would say that through USAID’S partnership here in Georgia over the last 30 years, U.S. agencies, in addition to USAID, have created the prospect for a wealthy, secure, democratic Georgia. In our very early days, our first assistance was humanitarian, the kind of support that Georgia needed to get its economy moving: to get children in schools, to get people the healthcare that they deserved. We worked to ensure that the government was functional. We worked with leaders across the political spectrum, along with civil society partners to move Georgia forward along the Euro-Atlantic path that its citizens desired.
So, our relationship has come a long way. During my trip here, I have seen how our partnership laid the foundation and continues to support a modern economy, increasingly integrated with the EU, the United States, and other international markets. Together, we’re creating jobs, we’re creating opportunities so that young people can be proud to stay in their communities and contribute to Georgia’s prosperous future. These jobs are in industries such as agriculture, but also in building critical infrastructures like port facilities, and a modernized tourism industry that attracts visitors from around the world who are interested in Georgia’s cultural heritage and amazing natural beauty. I have been completely struck by what Georgia has to offer to the rest of the world, and I can’t wait to return to experience even more of your beautiful land, your beautiful hospitality, and I have to say, your delicious food.
You asked about the key point of the discussion that we had in our meeting just now. Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future was a key element of this conversation. Nothing is more important to our bilateral relationship right now than Georgia’s opportunity to fulfill the 12 recommendations from the European Commission to keep Georgia on the Euro-Atlantic track. USAID stands ready to support this process. We discussed strengthening of institutions and anti-corruption reforms, including strengthening Parliament’s oversight functions. We also discussed the crucial importance of constructively engaging Georgia’s talented civil society in this process; to do otherwise would go directly against the recommendations of the European Commission. So, it is an honor to be here to reinforce these longstanding and critical ties with Georgia’s legislature alongside Ambassador Degnan, who leads a mission that is in lockstep with Washington and reflective of our enduring partnership with the people of Georgia.
Question on judicial reform
Ambassador McKee: USAID supports the critical pillars of a democratic government, the executive branch, the legislative branch, and of course, the judicial branch. As we know in our own country, an impartial and independent judiciary is vital for democracy to thrive. In that instance, Georgia should be very proud of how far you’ve come along your democratic path, but there’s still work to be done and in accordance with the recommendations from the European Commission. This is an area that we look forward to continuing our investment and in continuing our work, both in rule of law and judicial reform. We know that with a separation of powers, citizens have confidence in their government, good governance endures, the social contract is strong, and a democracy can thrive. That is what we are focused on and where we will take our work in the coming weeks, months, days, and years ahead.