U.S. Embassy Supported Exercise for Georgian Security Partners
This Joint Maritime Operations Center Table Top Exercise (JMOC TTX) facilitated by DTRA’s International Counterproliferation Program, brought together Georgia’s maritime-oriented interagency on 8-11 August to collaboratively respond to port and coastal security scenarios.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S Defense Threat Reduction Agency worked shoulder to shoulder at various locations along Georgia’s Black Sea Coast with Georgian security partners from the Maritime Transport Agency, the Coast Guard, the State Security Service, the Emergency Management Service and other organizations to address maritime security challenges.
The exercise builds on the JMOC TTX executed in September 2021 and will carry momentum into a JMOC TTX planned in spring 2023.
Participating agencies will be able to use lessons learned to develop enhanced response procedures and plans. Lessons will also potentially inform national-level maritime security strategy and legislation.
The JMOC TTX showcases another example of the U.S. government’s long-standing support to the government of Georgia.
At least one person was killed in an attack using an automatic weapon on Azerbaijan's Embassy in Iran’s capital TehranAt least one person was killed in an attack using an automatic weapon on Azerbaijan's Embassy in Iran’s capital Tehran, officials said early Friday."The attacker destroyed the guard post with a Kalashnikov automatic weapon and killed the head of the security service. Two security guards of the embassy were also injured while preventing the attack. Their condition is satisfactory," said the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry in a statement.The suspect in the attack was detained, according to Azerbaijani state media reports.An investigation is currently underway into the "treacherous attack," said the ministry.The ministry said that additional information will be provided to the public on details of the case.Iran and Azerbaijan share a border, and Iran has a large ethnic Azerbaijani population.
Euroclub in Kvareli to become regional hub for learning and development in Kakheti
On 16 December, the Euroclub in Kvareli, Georgia, opened its new space with the support of the European Union and the US Embassy.
The EuroClub, a youth organisation founded in Kvareli in 2019 with the support of the European Union’s Regional Communication Programme ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’, will now become a regional hub for education and development, not only in Kvareli municipality, but also in the Kakheti region. Since 2021, the EuroClub Kvareli unites the EuroClub and American Shelf in one space.
The main mission of EuroClub Kvareli is to promote education and development, raise civic awareness, provide access to non-formal education and spread Western values. The aim of the organisation is to bring the local community together and provide it with a space for open discussions, workshops, film screenings, and seminars.
Over the past three years, EuroClub Kvareli operations have reached more than 2,500 beneficiaries through 150+ activities as part of 25+ projects. These include the Citizen empowerment programme in Kvareli municipality, Activism film club, Open libraries, Book club, and European values and democracy campaign for European Days (EU4U).
EU welcomes initiative to lay submarine cable under Black Sea
The EU will be ready to provide financial support for the Black Sea Energy submarine cable project, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on 17 December, attending the signing in the Romanian capital Bucharest of a memorandum of understanding between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Hungary and Romania, which envisages the laying of an underwater electricity cable across the Black Sea.
Ursula von der Leyen said the agreement would bring the European Union closer to its partners in the South Caucasus region, and would help both regions achieve the clean energy transition. “Since the beginning of Russia’s war, we have decided to turn our back on Russian fossil fuels and to diversify towards reliable energy partners, like the partners here around the table. And it is working,” said the European Commission President.
She added the initiative would reinforce energy security in Europe and bring new opportunities to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine: “This project could bring Georgia, a country with a European destiny, great benefits as well. It could transform the country into an electricity hub and integrate it in the EU internal electricity market. Finally, the Black Sea electric cable could also help bring electricity to our neighbours in Moldova and the Western Balkans, and of course to Ukraine – it will help start rebuilding Ukraine’s energy system and the reconstruction of the country.”
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Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at the Women in Comprehensive Defense Conference
Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: This conference is an important opportunity to bring together international and Georgian experts to talk about NATO’s comprehensive defense concept and Georgia’s approach to implementing that concept. Women play a central role in the comprehensive defense concept, and we will be discussing that more in the course of today’s conference. There are many examples in Georgia’s history when women have demonstrated the important role that they play in supporting the defense of their country.
That goes all the way back to King Tamar and many battles throughout this country where women have been essential in supporting the defense effort. This is just a modern version of that to ensure that the whole of society is prepared, whether it’s for a natural disaster like a flood or an earthquake or some kind of attack or malicious event. So there are many different aspects to NATO’s comprehensive defense concept, and we’ll be exploring those today.
Question about the European Parliament resolution
Ambassador Degnan: The United States is not part of the European Parliament. I can say that we weren’t involved in drafting this resolution. I can say that we also regret the continuing polarization of the political environment here in Georgia, and we would certainly agree with the call for the political stakeholders here to come together and implement ambitious democratic judicial and anti-corruption reforms. This is work that is underway, and it needs to be done in an inclusive fashion. I think Georgia has a very good track record of submitting draft legislation like this to the Venice Commission and other European expert bodies for their feedback on whether it does indeed meet European Union standards. At a time when the next very important step on Georgia’s path to its European future is at hand, candidate status, it seems particularly important and worthwhile to submit draft legislation to the Venice Commission to get their assessment of whether the legislation that’s been prepared is compatible and meets European standards. The United States will continue, as we have for the past 30 years, to support the clear will of the Georgian people to live in a secure, stable, prosperous democracy. That is why we are such strong supporters of the people of Georgia’s aspiration for European Union membership and a Euro-Atlantic future. I would hope that all of Georgia’s political leaders, including the ruling party and the opposition, would come together now and make sure that the work that is being done for candidate status is going to meet European Union standards. This is the moment, and I sincerely hope that Georgia’s leaders will accomplish this goal for the people of Georgia.
Question about a news report on European Business Association
Ambassador Degnan: I don’t know Mr. Lee, and I’m not familiar with the European Business Association, so I really don’t have a comment on this.
Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at Parliament
Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: Today was a great opportunity to come to Parliament with our new USAID Mission Director, John Pennell. We had a chance to talk about the many different areas of cooperation and partnership that USAID has throughout Georgia, from economic growth to energy independence, basic education, vocational education, industry-driven skills development, and of course, democracy and governance. We’ve done a lot of good work over the decades with Parliament on developing its oversight capabilities and helping to draft legislation in a number of different important ways that also protect the human rights of Georgian citizens. So, this was a wonderful opportunity to introduce our new USAID Mission Director. As the Speaker himself pointed out, much of his career has been spent in the development sector, in civil society, and so it was useful for us to exchange views on just how important of a role civil society and development organizations play in any government, especially here in Georgia where we’ve had such a long partnership over the last 30 years. I would say in that respect, some of the attacks against civil society have been particularly surprising. As many of the Members of Parliament who have worked in civil society before coming into government know, civil society plays a critical role in a healthy democracy. It’s sometimes uncomfortable to hear feedback from civil society, but that is their role. Their role is to protect the interests of the citizens and to hold the government accountable. Sometimes that feedback is uncomfortable, but they’re not there to work for the government. They’re not there to work for particular political parties. They’re there to work for the public and the rights of the citizens and to hold the government accountable. I think Georgia is fortunate to have a number of very professional, strong civil society organizations that are doing exactly that, whether it’s helping to clean the air, address climate change, or to help develop regulations that protect workers that improve communities. Civil society works across so many different sectors, and I think we should appreciate the good work that they do every day.
Question on new members of People’s Party
Ambassador Degnan: I’m not going to comment on the political developments in Georgia. I think the Georgian public can see very well what’s going on here. There is a confusing message coming from the government between aligning with those who seem to be moving to undermine the partnership between Georgia and the United States, and the statements from the Prime Minister and others about the importance of the partnership between the United States and Georgia and other strategic partners. I prefer to deal with facts. There’s plenty of disinformation and conspiracy theories out there. The facts are that for 30 years the United States has been committed to helping Georgia strengthen its security and supporting Georgia’s sovereignty. For 30 years, the United States has been supporting Georgia in developing its economy, in creating better jobs. I would say some of the good economic figures that we’re seeing in Georgia right now in part relate to the support that the United States, the EU, and other friends of Georgia provided to help cushion the outcome of the Covid pandemic and to help Georgia be in a good economic position coming out of this unprecedented situation, on top of the impact of the war or Russia’s war against Ukraine. For 30 years, the United States has also been trying to help Georgia build its democratic institutions so that the people of Georgia can have greater confidence that this country is moving toward a stronger, healthier democracy. That is what the people of Georgia have said they wanted for decades. The United States has been very proud and pleased to be able to help Georgia with all of those goals: stronger security, a stronger economy, and stronger democratic institutions. We look forward to continuing that partnership. Our meeting today with this speaker and his cabinet was a good chance to renew that partnership and to talk about the ways going forward that USAID and the US Embassy can continue to support Georgia on its path toward a Euro-Atlantic future. That’s what we all want to see: Georgia more fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic family.
Question on de-oligarchization
Ambassador Degnan: The issue behind de-oligarchization in any country is how to address undue influence by anyone in the political or the economic processes of a country, anyone who’s trying to influence the operation of government and society through excess money or influence. It’s an issue that many countries grapple with, including my own. There are different ways that countries address undue influence in the political sector, and I think each country needs to debate that and come up with its own solution. I personally don’t think it’s always helpful to just borrow somebody else’s without tailoring it to the specifics of your country’s situation. There are many good examples out there that can be examined and crafted into something that is appropriate for Georgia, and the underlying problem, which is undue influence that affects the political will of the people. For instance, instead of having an election that reflects what the voters have voted, you have a distorted view because there’s been an undue influence on the process. What any law like this is meant to do is to try to ensure that there is transparency, accountability, and a level playing field so that the people’s voice is heard.