Amb. Degnan Meets with the Speaker of Parliament

On April 7 US Ambassador Kelly Degnan met with Parliament Speaker Shalva Papushvili.

Following the meeting with the Speaker, Kelly Degnan answered questions from journalists. Asked about the issues discussed at the meeting and whether the sanctions imposed on Georgian judges by the US State Department had been discussed, she said: “It’s always very useful and helpful to talk with the Speaker about the issues we are working on together. We came today to talk about additional ways for the US to support Parliament’s legal reform matters, we’ve worked together very well for years on judicial reform and look forward to continuing that”.

Noting that judicial reform and the fight against corruption are two of the EU’s 12 conditions for EU candidacy, she expressed hope that Georgia would receive a positive response from the EU in December. She stressed however, that “there is still more work to do” as indicated by the Venice Commission opinion in March, including a series of steps to take to meet the judicial reform requirements, including the reform of the High Council of Justice.

She underlined that now “Georgia has an opportunity to address allegations of corruption in the judiciary, this is an opportunity to demonstrate this government’s commitment to fighting corruption and establishing a truly independent and impartial judiciary.”

She expressed the hope that the government will embrace this opportunity to address allegations of corruption and “really take meaningful steps to create independent and impartial judiciary”.

Asked about the GD representatives’ defiant rhetoric following the announcement of sanctions, the allegations of surveillance, and the ongoing “second front” rhetoric, the US Ambassador said she does not know what phone calls were insinuated. As for the “second front”, the Ambassador stressed that this is absolutely false”. She said there is no reason, why the US would want to endanger Georgia, adding that on the contrary, “the US is very sensitive to the position that Georgia is in, with 20% of the territory occupied by the aggressor, Russia”. She also added that it is concerning to hear “these conspiracy theories repeated and sometimes echoed by members of the ruling party” in particular, “when they know that it is 100% false”.

Asked about the Parliament’s suspension of accreditation for several TV channels’ journalists, Kelly Degnan noted that “the US is a strong proponent of robust independent media, and we are also a strong proponent of professional ethical journalism, and that combination is how you ensure that the public gets accurate and balanced information.”

She also said that while it’s up to the Speaker to set the rules of decorum for Parliament, what’s really important is that they are implemented in a fair and impartial way.

Commenting on the meeting and referring to the State Department’s decision, Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili said: “Ambassador said that this is not a sanction, this is a visa restriction”. He also said that the conversation touched upon the evidence behind the State Department’s decision. According to him, Kelly Degnan reiterated that the evidence was largely gathered through publicly available sources. He added: “However, we did not receive any additional information as to what specific information the decision was based on. He went on to say: “So, from our point of view, such a harsh decision … [is] an attack on individuals, Georgian citizens and Georgian judges, and to label them with corruption is unacceptable”, lamenting that “partners don’t behave like that”.

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