'The decline of democracy in Georgia is alarming' - US Senate Committee
US concerned about democracy in Georgia
A recent meeting of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs was devoted to the political situation in Georgia. The country is showing “a recent democratic pullback after significant progress in recent decades,” Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried said in a speech.
According to Donfried, the United States and the European Union are still ready to help Georgia carry out the necessary reforms to obtain the status of an EU candidate country.
“The United States has provided more than six billion dollars in aid to Georgia, sent thousands of Georgians to the United States to participate in cultural and educational exchange programs, and trained tens of thousands of Georgian soldiers to defend Georgian territory and promote peace and stability beyond… We continue to call on the government Georgia to carry out the necessary reforms to obtain the status of an EU candidate,” Donfried said.
She also appealed to MPs who left the ruling Georgian Dream party and founded the Power of the People movement. Donfried recalled their repeated criticism of US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan and supported the American diplomat:
“Although these groups are not part of the government, some of them, those who sharply and erroneously criticize the ambassador, have close ties to the authorities. We have made it clear that such actions undermine our partnership.”
She also stated, “I want to tell the members of the committee that Degnan is a fantastic US representative and I will support her at any time.”
Donfried was supported by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who said that it might be worth reconsidering the American strategy of helping Georgia since the government of the country, as the government’s stated goal of EU candidacy is at odds with its direction.
Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party Irakli Kobakhidze reacted to Senator Shaheen’s statement, saying Georgia is “not very interested” in possible changes in the system of assistance to Georgia from the US Senate, since most of this funding goes to NGOs:
“Unfair criticism has no weight with us, only criticism based on specific reasons has weight. NGOs should worry about whether they will be funded or not,” Kobakhidze said.
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Attacks on US Ambassador Kelly Degnan intensified after three MPs left the ruling party and later founded the Power of the People movement. The deputies believe that “they need a free parliamentary mandate” to voice all the existing problems in the country and within the ruling party.
MP Mikheil Kavelashvili published an open letter to the US ambassador urging Degnan to publicly disassociate himself from provocations by the main opposition National Movement party in order to protect America’s image.
On July 22, the deputies addressed the press secretary of the US State Department, Ned Price, saying that they do not wish to “rudely interfere in the “internal affairs of Georgia”. This statement followed support expressed by Ned Price for Degnan.
Matters got to the point that even the judges criticized the American ambassador — allegedly for the fact that Degnan was interested in the verdict in the case Nika Gvaramia, who was eventually convicted.
Former members of the High Council of Justice supported the judges’ statement. Three of them said that the US Embassy was interfering with the independent decision of a particular judge, an example of “indirect” pressure on other representatives of justice.
Meeting of the US Senate Committee on Georgia