During the hearing held at the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee on 16 November to assess U.S. policy in the Caucasus, Senators asked the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Karen Donfried, critical questions about Georgia’s democratic backsliding, among other issues.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen asked the Assistant Secretary whether the U.S. should rethink its strategic partnership with Georgia, including in terms of financial support, in light of “tremendous backsliding” in the country.
The MPs of the Georgian Dream party criticized Senator Shaheen’s remarks as “unfair.”
Below is a compilation of some of the remarks made by the GD lawmakers:
Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chairperson of the party, claimed, “A huge part of the U.S. funding goes mainly to civil society organizations. Thus, it is less interesting to us. As for the unfair criticism, it has no value for us. Only criticism with concrete grounds can be valuable. In this case, we again heard unfair criticism… I would reiterate that this funding mainly goes to CSOs and therefore, it is them who should worry if this funding faces any threat. But I do not think that this will happen, because funding of CSOs is within the interests of this country [U.S]… Shaheen said in her remarks that it is not expedient to discuss this issue [introducing the conditionality component in providing financial support to Georgia]. Earlier, one of the former U.S. ambassadors said that any reservations are irrelevant because they are working through CSOs.”
Mamuka Mdinaradze, Chairperson of the Georgian Dream parliamentary faction, remarked, “Senator Jeanne Shaheen has not uttered a word about Georgia for months, neither bad nor good. It happened only after the EU Commissioner for Enlargement made very positive remarks about Georgia, and it is nothing but an attempt to move to a negative agenda. It is very regrettable that I have to say it. It does not matter whether she would talk about funding or not. It is of secondary importance. Most important is that we have not heard either positive nor negative messages for months.”
Irakli Zarkua, Georgian Dream MP stated, “The remarks made by the EU official yesterday, the European Commissioner, who is not some [Andrius] Kubilius elected here or there, or [Anna] Fotyga or [Markéta] Gregorova brought by certain groups to politics, he is an appointed official, the EU Commissioner in charge of European Enlargement. It was an important detail and Shaheen with such incorrect information, incorrect approaches, and tactics… that is why the Democrats lost the majority in Congress, with such an approach – incorrect, unfair. Therefore, let me reiterate, we find valuable only those recommendations which are based on correct arguments. When Shaheen tells me this, what differentiates her from Kubilius?”