"These laws are aimed at blocking Georgians who are helping other Georgians. These are Georgians who are trying to address problems in their communities and provide services, whether it’s on climate change, or for business associations, or for young people, or people with disabilities, legal assistance to people who are in some cases in desperate need. These laws seem to be clearly in line with Russian law, which is aimed at stigmatizing civil society. It’s aimed at silencing dissenting voices. When you look at what’s going on in Russia right now, you see that Russian law has been very effective in silencing civil society and dissenting voices. Georgia has fought hard to build its democracy, to protect its freedoms. These laws will undermine that progress that Georgia has spent so many years building. That is why you hear concerns from the United Nations, from the European Union, from the United States, from many of Georgia’s long-standing friends, who’ve been working with Georgia for over 30 years, to help improve Georgia’s freedoms, protect Georgia’s freedoms, and build the institutions. So that is why people are very concerned. Georgia does not need this law". - Ambassador Degnan about the draft "foreign influence" laws.
US Embassy in Georgia
The Tamar Shioshvili Center for American Studies was opened at the International Black Sea University. US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan attended the opening ceremony.
The rector of the university, Dr. Saffet Bayraktutan mentioned the following at the opening of the center: "The English-language program of American Studies has been operating at IBSU for 20 years, which is headed by Professor Tamar Shioshvili. "It is the result of Mrs. Tamar's efforts, that today we have such an outstanding program at the university and have so many successful graduates and students. By opening the center, we are commemorating the 30th anniversary of US-Georgia diplomatic relations, and I hope that the cooperation with the strategic partner will continue successfully in the future".
US Ambassador Kelly Degnan thanked Tamar Shioshvili for the activities she has been conducting for years to popularize America in Georgia. The ambassador noted that the opening of the Center for American Studies and the discussion of American studies issues here help to deepen the friendship between the people of the two countries.
The Tamar Shioshvili Center for American Studies houses a library that has been filled with books donated to the American Studies program over the years. In the center, BA, MA and PhD programs students of American studies will work on their research topics and those researches will be reviewed by the Georgian and American professors of the field.
The International Black Sea University's American studies undergraduate program was opened in 2002, after Professor Tamar Shioshvili participated in the American studies curriculum design program forum in 2001, with the funding of the US State Department. The forum intended to get to know and study the specific, traditional and leading programs of American studies in the US universities of George Washington, Michigan, New Mexico, Penn State and Memphis.
In 2004, Tamar Shioshvili became the holder of a Fulbright grant from the US State Department and a researcher at the George Washington University's Department of American Studies. This gave her an opportunity to develop a bachelor's program and create an English-language master's program and in 2007, the only English-language American studies doctoral program was opened in Georgia.
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.
THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS HOSTED US AMBASSADOR TO GEORGIA, KELLY DEGNAN AT THE MIA ACADEMY
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of US-Georgia diplomatic relations, Ambassador Kelly Degnan visited the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The guests were hosted by the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Butkhuzi. The presentation of the infrastructural projects, which were implemented with the partnership and support of the USA, was held at the Academy.
Question about the event
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: We are delighted to be here tonight to celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and Georgia. I’ve had a chance to visit with some of our partners during the two days I’ve been here so far, but tonight’s reception is to thank our wonderful partners here in Adjara for all of the great work that we’ve been doing together over the last 30 years. There have been some really important initiatives that have helped develop the economy, develop civil society, develop democracy and local governance, as well as security cooperation, and many other areas that we’re working on with our Georgian partners here in the entire region. So, tonight is really our thank you.
Question on Georgia’s EU application and the possibility of receiving candidate status
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: For 30 years, the United States has been working toward Georgia’s full integration into the Euro-Atlantic community of nations. Almost everything that we have done and are doing here in Georgia is designed to support the people of Georgia’s desire to be part of the European Union and to be part of NATO. That is what the people of Georgia want, and that is what the United States firmly supports. We have been advocating on behalf of Georgia’s EU candidacy because we want to see Georgia succeed in its European aspirations.
When I hear people say that the United States is working against Georgia or trying to drag Georgia into the war or open a “second front,” that is a hundred percent Russian disinformation. That is absolutely not true. The United States has done everything we can to stop this war, to stop the fighting. Even before hostilities broke open, the United States was the country that was working hardest to prevent this war from happening. We absolutely do not want to see Georgia dragged into this war. In our view, what the European Union – what NATO stands for is peace, stability, prosperity. You can see it in every country you’re in: the stability and prosperity and the peace that come with being part of the Euro-Atlantic community. And we want that for Georgia too. We know that’s what the Georgian people want as well. So, we’re going to continue to be fully committed to Georgia’s sovereignty, to its territorial integrity, and to its desire to be fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.
Question about the Prime Minister’s recent comments
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I won’t speak on behalf of the Prime Minister, but what I can say is I don’t know anybody in Georgia who wants Georgia to be part of this war. I think everybody in Georgia is – and certainly, the United States is very aware—of what Georgians have gone through and how they are feeling. What’s going on in the outpouring of humanitarian assistance and support for Ukraine is a good indication of where Georgians’ hearts are in this fight. What is really needed is not this fighting amongst Georgians. It’s for Georgians to come together. This is one issue where I would hope Georgia’s leaders could put aside their differences and come together in the interest of this country’s future: in the interest of this country’s stability and prosperity. Unity is what is needed right now, not more fighting: unity. I would love to see Georgians live up to their motto of “dzala ertobashia” that’s what’s needed right now.
The Prosecutor General of Georgia Irakli Shotadze thanked the United States Embassy in Georgia and the US Department of Justice for their support
The Prosecutor General of Georgia Irakli Shotadze and the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Georgia Kelly Degnan handed over certificates to the participants of the training related to cryptocurrency crimes conducted with the support of the US Department of Justice.
According to the administration of the Prosecutor General of Georgia, the four-day training on cryptocurrency crimes, in which prosecutors, investigators from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Security Service and the Investigative Service of the Ministry of Finance participated, ended.
The event was attended by the Deputy Prosecutor Generals, Resident Adviser to the United States Department of Justice, Lena Owens and representatives of the United States Embassy in Georgia.
The Prosecutor General of Georgia Irakli Shotadze thanked the United States Embassy in Georgia and the US Department of Justice for their support. According to the Prosecutor General, new recommendations have been developed with American experts to search and seize digital assets, which will be an important guide for prosecutors and investigators in the fight against cybercrime. Also, a special unit for seizing cryptocurrencies will be created with the support of the US Department of Justice.
According to the US Ambassador Kelly Degnan, the United States will continue cooperation with Georgia in this direction in the future. As she said, a group of the best experts was selected for the training and they shared their practices and experience with the participants.
The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America emphasized the importance of close cooperation in the future in strengthening the justice system and the fight against cryptocurrency-related crimes.
The four-day training at the General Prosecutor’s Office was led by Andrew Zhigielskiy, Christopher Wongs, Tom Dogherts and Nikhil Bhagats-experts in the field of the cybercrime investigation of the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Cryptocurrency-related crime training covered important topics such as criminal use of virtual assets, search and seizure of virtual assets, analysis of cryptocurrency-related criminal cases, international cooperation in cybercrime cases, etc.
In order to increase the effectiveness of the fight against cybercrime, a number of important training activities are planned in cooperation with the Prosecutor's Office of Georgia and the US Department of Justice.
To help increase youth employment in rural communities, the U.S. Government funded an innovative project for high school students and teachers in Guria designed to strengthen vocational and entrepreneurial skills.
The agriculture entrepreneurship clubs that have been created in the framework of this project will continue to provide entrepreneurial knowledge to teachers and students via long term networks. US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan met with the talented and motivated youth of Guria and heard about their achievements made possible through this project.
U.S.-Georgian security and defense cooperation is the cornerstone of our strategic partnership. Today, Ambassador Degnan visited Georgia’s Davit Aghmashenebeli National Defense Academy (NDA) and met with Rector Brigadier General Mamia Balakhadze.
The NDA is the backbone of the Georgian Defense Forces’ officer corps. The United States Embassy is proud to offer support to its mission of educating and training future officers.
US Embassy in Tbilisi
During the meeting with David Zalkaliani, Kelly Degnan thanked the Georgian government for its support to UkraineWednesday, 02 March 2022 12:24
The Vice Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Zalkaliani met with the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan. The main topic of discussions was the ongoing war in Ukraine, the current security environment and the partners’ support of Ukraine. The U.S. Ambassador thanked the Government of Georgia, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for their political and practical support for Ukraine. The Minister of Foreign Affairs once again affirmed the close coordination with the strategic partner in the light of the ongoing processes.
"I again received unwavering support from the United States, our main strategic partner, for Georgia's European and Euro-Atlantic integration course, and the assessments that followed our statements of support for Ukraine are fully backed and shared by the United States," - he said.
"The United States welcomes Georgia's clear support for Ukraine," Kelly Degnan said after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry. The American diplomat underlined the support of the Georgian government and people of Georgia for Ukraine, including the importance of the humanitarian aid sent to Ukraine, as well as the support the Ukrainians citizens in Georgia. "We should also mention the very generous donations by the Georgian people, business community and the government, and the humanitarian assistance, as well as the support to Ukrainian citizens, including those here, in Tbilisi, Georgia," Kelly Degnan said.
The U.S. Ambassador also welcomed the Georgian Foreign Ministry's clear support for Ukraine in both bilateral and multilateral formats:
"We strongly welcome the important statements made by Minister David Zalkaliani and the Foreign Ministry regarding Russia's aggression, as well as their clear support within the multilateral organizations like the UN, United Nations, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, where Georgia made very important statements of support for the Ukrainian people."
Minister of Defence of Georgia Juansher Burchuladze hosted Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Georgia Kelly Degnan. The sides discussed the security environment in the region and the threats posed by Russia. MOD of Georgia announced it recently.
The sides focused on current issues and future plans for US-Georgia bilateral defence and security cooperation, including planned high-level visits and multinational military exercises.
During the visit of US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin to Georgia, a multi-year initiative about strengthening Georgia's defence and deterrence policy signed between the two countries' defence ministries was one of the main topics of discussion.
It was underlined that the progress made as a result of the implementation of the Georgian Defence Readiness Program (GDRP) formed the basis of the agreement, which aims to further modernize and develop the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Forces and supports the country's resilience and capabilities within total defence. The US Defene Attaché, Colonel Stephanie Begley attended the meeting.