Ambassador Degnan: This is a very exciting event to watch the paratroopers watch today. Georgia, the United States, Great Britain, Poland – many NATO partners and allies jumped here in Georgia on this beautiful day. This is also a very important event as it shows that our armed forces are ready, interoperable and mobile to respond when needed. It is very important to do this type of exercise on a regular basis. Today’s event is part of the larger exercise – Agile Spirit, which has been going on for about a week, allowing the armed forces of 15 different allied nations and partners to work together to perfect their skills and ensure functionality. Regular exercises like this deter aggression and reassure people and our allies that when we are ready, we can work together and have the training and equipment we need. It’s a great day, very exciting, and I’m very happy to be here.
Qn on the annulment of the agreement of 19
Ambassador Degnan: All the declarations, including our declaration, all the declarations that I have read, have made it clear how disappointed the Friends of Georgia are that the Georgian Dream has decided to withdraw from this agreement. It is the best roadmap that Georgia’s political leaders have negotiated over a six-month period for the kind of reforms Georgia must undertake. The idea and value of the agreement was that the parties negotiated this together and made a joint commitment to drive these reforms forward. So we hope that the agreement can continue to provide some kind of structure, a framework for cooperation between the parties. Unilateral reforms are not what Georgia needs. Georgia needs multi-party reforms that all leaders elected by Georgian voters can pursue and drive forward. So I hope that the agreement stays in place and continues to provide the Georgian leaders with the kind of guidance on how to implement the necessary reforms. The focus must be on meeting the commitments made by Georgian Dream and all of the signatories to the agreement. You have made your promise to implement this agreement in good faith and you must continue to do so. I believe that sanctions are premature until we discover that there is a lack of good faith to honor the commitments made by the signatories to this agreement. We will continue to urge all parties who have not signed to sign. It is important that it is a broad agreement. But in the meantime, those who signed have given their word and pledged to honor this agreement. Thank you.
Qn about the election campaign and expectations of the elections
Ambassador Degnan: We have already seen that the campaign is in full swing. As a result of the implemented agreements, very important electoral reforms were passed. They offer the possibility that these October elections will be an improvement on previous elections. You must complete the required training. This will be an improvement for the Central Electoral Commission. The electoral districts and the state election commissions must be trained accordingly, the voters must be trained to understand what is different and new and that they have confidence in the election results. This trust is very important to ensure progress and a strong atmosphere for the necessary reform work to continue – and to ensure that the electorate is well represented. The media are an essential part of this. The media always play an important role, but especially in election campaigns. The media gives voters the information they need to make an informed decision. The attacks that we have recently witnessed, the violent attacks, but also the threats and bullying against journalists are not only unconstitutional according to the Georgian constitution, but an attack on the core, a cornerstone of democracy. Journalists need to know that they can go out and do their jobs without intimidation or fear of violence, get the information the public needs and hold institutions accountable. And I sincerely hope that there will be clear messages from the government that violent attacks on the media have consequences and that any kind of attack – verbal, bullying, intimidation – will not be tolerated. In this environment, I think voters will be able to get the information they need. Thank you.