Congressman Randy Weber Addresses Georgian PM
According to Georgia Today, United States Congressman Randy Weber wrote a letter to Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia regarding “Georgia’s continued backsliding from democratic values and the associated decline of its economic prosperity.”
"I am alarmed by reports of delayed reforms and a declining climate for U.S. investment in Georgia, especially for energy companies from the USA. I wrote this letter to Georgia's Prime Minister to express my serious concern," Weber tweeted.
The Congressman expresses “concern over the decision to forego promised democratic reforms; reports of violence against peaceful protests; and, the improper targeting and harassment of political opponents, news operators, international and U.S. corporations, and civil society members.”
“Last year, I joined my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Georgia Support Act primarily intended to express our support for your country ‘s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s open challenges to all these areas. It is very important to note, however, that the Georgia Support Act did not provide U.S. support for the Georgian government to effect domestic governance that runs contrary to the development of democratic values in Georgia, including free and fair elections, public sector transparency and accountability, the rule of law, and anti-corruption,” Weber said.
The congressman mentioned the National Statistics Office of Georgia’s report about the decrements of foreign direct investment in Georgia since 2017 and Transparency International’s report on annual Corruption Perception Index for 2019, which “shows that Georgia’s rating is continuing to decline or remain stagnant since 2015.”
“The resulting decline in foreign direct investment should, therefore, come as no surprise given that U.S. and European business interests find such an environment extremely challenging and are experiencing harassment, contract cancellation and expropriation attacks. From my home state, a notable example of this experience is the oil and gas company from Houston, Texas – Frontera Resources. Another example relating to this deteriorating environment relates to the U.S. social media company, Facebook, who recently announced that it discovered and shut down an extensive network of accounts linked to the ruling Georgian Dream Party that were found to advance “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in order to crush opposition views in Georgia and advance anti· Western sentiments, especially towards the United States,” Congressman stressed.
He added that “due to these concerning trends, the President of the United States signed into law two consecutive annual appropriation bills from the U.S. Congress for 2019 and 2020 that specifically addressed concerns regarding the Georgian government’s backsliding against democratic values, free-market principles and American business interests.”
“For the first time in Georgia’s modem history, your country is cast in a negative and cautionary light with respect to appropriations legislation from the U.S. government. Because of the observed negative trends amidst significant annual foreign aid, calls for consideration of sanctions and other penalties are increasing in the United States. I joined a growing number of Congressional members in the call for reform by CO-sponsoring the Georgia Fair Business Practices Sanctions Act, introduced as H.R. 1461 in the U .S. House of Representatives,” Weber noted.
He concluded that “Georgia remains an important friend and strategic partner of the United States.”
“In this context, it is also my hope that your government will find ways to start discouraging actions against U.S. companies, encourage increased foreign direct investment from America, and ultimately find ways to address the warning signs that represent a threat to the freedom and economic prosperity of the Georgian people,” Congressman said.
The above letters continue a series of critical statements made by American congressmen of late, in particular, letters sent by Adam Kinzinger and Gerald E. Connolly, Co-Chairs of the US Congressional Georgia Caucus and the joint letter sent by four Congressmen, together with a letter from Congressman Mullin and a comment from Congressman Pete Olson, which mentioned the dispute between the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation and the US-based company Frontera Resources.
In response, the ruling party Georgian Dream members' common position is that the US congressmen "are not properly informed, and have one-sided information about recent developments in the country". They say they plan to inform them of their arguments regarding the open letters during regular meetings scheduled for February. Chairman of Parliament Archil Talakvadze stated Wednesday that "the government is ready to answer all the questions that the congressmen asked in their letters."
Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said he understands the controversy generated by the Congressmen’s letters in Georgia.
"There is a political context, and, of course, everybody will use these letters in the political context, given the election cycle," Gakharia said.
He told journalists that all the letters the administration received had been immediately disclosed to the public and were not concealed.
“Whatever tough questions emerge between strategic partners, we are always ready to sit down and talk about them. We are ready to do so both inside and outside the country, whenever serious questions are asked about Georgia's democratic development, foreign orientation, strategic relations between countries. Everyone understands that Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations and development are irreversible. Our colleagues may have some questions and I assure you that we are not afraid of this. We are not afraid of tough questions or tough answers, both at home and abroad. Every question will be answered quietly, without unnecessary excitement," he stated.
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