Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: I’m very pleased to be here today, along with the Minister of Education, my EU colleague, and many other distinguished guests for the launch of Georgia’s Skills Week. The United States has been helping Georgia develop its education sector for years, including in the area of vocational education and training. This is because we want Georgian citizens to be able to acquire the skills they need through vocational education and training in order to get good paying jobs for rewarding lifelong careers. This is our latest program through USAID: industry-led skills bring together the private sector that coordinates with vocational education and training institutions to make sure that students are coming out with the skills that are needed in today’s market. The programs are designed to bring together the government, the private sector, vocational and education training institutions, and civil society to make sure that Georgians have the opportunity for better paying jobs and rewarding careers that are going to help both their families and their communities. So, we are delighted today to launch Skills Week, a weeklong celebration of the achievements that Georgia has made in this area.
Question on designations on individuals associated with the Georgian judiciary and U.S. study tours for judges
Ambassador Degnan: Our study tours have been popular and successful because they bring together judges from the United States with judges in Georgia and give them an opportunity to learn from each other and to share their best practices and lessons learned. Sometimes they talk about how they manage their courtrooms, the heavy workloads, or sometimes particularly interesting issues that come up during cases. Our programs are open to those who are qualified, as well as those who will benefit from these exchanges with American judges and maybe bring ideas back to their courtrooms. They’re also open to those who can go because this is a big time commitment. Sometimes, given the workloads of judges here, they’re not always able to go for the full two weeks; sometimes it’s even longer than two weeks. So, we are always delighted when Georgian judges choose to participate in our programs, and we usually have a lot of interest in them. We look forward to continuing this great exchange between Georgian and American judges.
On your second question, Parliament created these investigatory commissions as a mechanism to look into issues that are important to the people of Georgia, to look into issues of the day that require greater transparency, and more information to allow the citizens of Georgia to be better informed and also to hold people accountable and provide transparency on important issues. So, the reason this mechanism was created by Parliament was to provide citizens with more information. I think it’s a very useful technique that’s been a mechanism that’s used in many different Parliaments, including the US Congress. We would hope that Parliament and Members of Parliament would make full use of these tools that they have created in the interest of their citizens.
Question on Helsinki Commission’s call for Nika Gvaramia’s release
Ambassador Degnan: The Helsinki Commission is a very well-respected organization that has a mandate from the United States Congress to monitor human rights around the world, including media freedom. They have been clear, as have many others, including our Embassy, on concerns about Mr. Gvaramia’s case, including the original charges, the timing of the charges, and then subsequently the conviction and decision. This is a letter from an organization that has been a friend of Georgia’s for a very long time, a strong supporter of Georgia in its democratic development and its progress toward European integration. Any decision regarding pardoning is solely up to President Zourabichvili, and I’m sure she takes all of the requests—such as those from the Helsinki Commission—into consideration in making her decisions.
Within the framework of international police cooperation, members of various criminal groups - citizens of Georgia - were taken under arrest in Italy and France with the active involvement of the Central Criminal Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and active participation of Georgian police attaches.
On February 9, 2021, with the direct involvement of the Police attache of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to Italy, the officers of Central Operative Service of the Ministry of Interior of Italy, Regio Emilia Regional Police under the Public Safety Department and Interpol, as a result of intensive operative search and investigative activities, exposed and detained 21 Georgian citizens in Italy, 2 individuals in Poland, 1 individual in Greece, one in Belgium and another one in Slovenia within the frames of the operation under the name “Thief-in-law”. The mentioned persons were involved in illegal activities on the territory of Italy and EU member states.
The investigation established that the detained Georgian citizens were robbing the apartments in northern Italy, sending the stolen items to specific venues for further realization, and attempted to start a legal business on the territory of the Italian Republic with the money illegally obtained from the stolen items.
Due to the mentioned criminal actions, the Department of Public Safety of the Italian Republic has launched an investigation against the citizens of Georgia under Articles 416, 624 and 648 under the Criminal Code of Italy, envisaging the formation of criminal groups, theft and money laundering. The mentioned criminal action envisages up to 7 years of imprisonment.
Within the framework of operation “Thief- in –Law”, Georgian law enforcers, as a result of a 6-month cooperation and direct participation of the Police Attache of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, exchanged operative information a number of times on Georgian citizens involved in the mentioned criminal activities with the Italian side.
In order to conceal the traces of crime to Italian police forces, Georgian citizens actively used forged data and documents. As a result of the complex measures and active involvement of the Forensic-Criminalistics Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, all the individuals who participated in the mentioned crimes were identified.
Operation “Thief –in- Law” is only the part of a large-scale operation being carried out jointly by Georgian and Italian law enforcement agencies.
In addition to the mentioned, on February 9, 2021, joint operation "BRATVA-35" was carried out in the Republic of France, as a result of intensive operative-investigative activities with the direct involvement of the Georgian police attache and the Georgian Liaison Officer deployed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to the French National Police.
As part of the operation, in the cities of the French Republic: La Roche-sur-Yon, Noir, Angers, Bordeaux and Rennes, the "thief in law" of Georgian origin - K.A. And 17 citizens of Georgia were detained.
The detainees were members of an organized criminal group and actively involved in criminal activities in France and other EU states. In particular, they are charged under Articles 131, 132, 311, 321, 450 of the Criminal Code of the French Republic and Article 414 of the Customs Code, which includes a number of episodes of theft committed by an organized group in commercial premises on the territory of the French Republic, participation in an organized criminal group, purchase / sale of criminally obtained property and illegal trade of illegally obtained tobacco products, which envisages up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine in the amount of 375 thousand Euros.
One more patient has died from coronavirus in Georgia, bringing the death toll to 5.
According to the latest figures, the number of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in Georgia has reached 411. 98 patients recovered from the virus.
Three Georgian citizens are brought from abroad for medical treatment.
Currently, 5015 people remain under quarantine and 573 – in inpatient care.
On March 1, 2017, Georgians have been granted the freedom to travel to the Schengen Area member states. The signing ceremony took place in Brussels on the same day, while the regulation will come into full effect on 28 March, 2017.
From 28 March, 2017 Georgian citizens holding biometric passports can travel to the Schengen Zone without a visa for a period of 90 days within any 180-day period for purposes other than working.
The European Commission submitted a legislative proposal on the visa liberalization for Georgia to the European Parliament. It was assumed that visa-free regime would be discussed for both countries as a package, Georgia and Ukraine, but the MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) decided to divide the two countries.
The negotiations on visa liberalization for Georgia started back in 2008 as part of the Eastern Partnership Program.
Georgia took part in the EU-Georgia talks back in June 2012, as a way used by the pro-Western government to win painful EU-sponsored reforms.
In order to travel freely, the citizens of Georgia will need to provide a biometric passport. On the other hand, Georgians will lose this freedom to travel if they:
- Suddenly start making numerous asylum requests
- Stay in the Schengen Zone for more than 90 days at a time
- Cause an increase in the risk of public policy and internal security
If such problems persist, the suspension can be extended up to 18 months, were also the European Parliament will get involved and continue a more complex procedure.
Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Georgia’s prime minister called this a truly historic day for the Georgians and expressed gratitude towards the EU member states.
This has proved to be the day that will bring Georgians closer to the European Union.
LIBE Committee supported visa free regime for Georgian citizens. 45 deputies participated in the voting. Only 2 detupies came against visa liberalization for Georgia. The Plenary session will hold in February.
Coreper confirmed an achieved agreement with European Parliament at 13 of December, 2016. As it is reported, Georgian citizens will allowed in Schengen Zone without visas in the nearest future.
Mikheil Janelidze: Protection of interests of Georgian citizens living abroad is a key concern of the Foreign MinistryThursday, 17 November 2016 14:53
Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze considers protection of interests of Georgian citizens living abroad to be a key concern of the Foreign Ministry.Delivering a speech at the Conference dedicated to the diaspora issues - “Georgian Diaspora – Present days and Challenges” – the Georgian Foreign Minister underlined that this significant mission is carried out by 64 Embassies and 9 Consulates-General of Georgia, which provide the Georgian citizens with the high quality services.
Mikheil Janelidze noted that the Foreign Ministry plans to elaborate the latest technologies and new mechanisms, promoting the further improvement of the service. “The Georgian diplomatic missions abroad are in close contact with the Georgian diaspora. As a rule, our diplomats actively hold meetings with the diaspora representatives. The meetings will continue in the future as well in order to understand more fully the challenges faced and to know your vision in terms of challenges and prospects faced by our country, “ – the Foreign Minister said. According to Mikheil Janelidze, proceeding from the Ministry’s resources and experience, the Ministry is the right organisation that will be able to maintain active relations with the Georgian citizens abroad and the diaspora representatives and to meet the challenges.