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Public Statements

Expressing Sense of House Toward Establishment of a Democratic and Prosperous Republic of Georgia

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in strong support of H. Res. 526, and I would like to thank the sponsors of this legislation, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Shuster) and my colleague from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ms. Schwartz, also from Pennsylvania, for their leadership on this issue.

This resolution expresses the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to the establishment of the democratic and prosperous Republic of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, which includes Abkhazia and South Ossetia as regions of Georgia. It is time for Russia to remove its occupying forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia and comply fully with the August 12, 2008, cease-fire agreement. It is also time for the Russian Federation, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Tuvalu, and Nauru to revoke their recognition of the Georgian regions as independent states and respect Georgia's sovereignty. The territorial integrity of Georgia has been reaffirmed by the international community multiple times in United Nations Security Council resolutions.

I commend Georgia for its commitment to a peaceful reunification of its territories and its engagement in constructive confidence-building measures towards the occupied territories aimed at reconnecting the divided communities.

Georgia has had success in laying the foundation for a liberal, democratic state, and I urge the Government of Georgia to consolidate its impressive accomplishments since the 2003 Rose Revolution. The reforms needed to strengthen Georgia's nascent democracy are well-known: an independent judiciary, respect for human rights and the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, independent media, accountable and transparent policymaking, and a balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. These reforms will be the strongest guarantor of Georgia's independence and prosperity.

Ahead of us, the October 1 parliamentary elections can serve as yet another important benchmark of the deepening democratic process in Georgia. These will be followed by presidential elections. A step backwards would not only be a blow to the development of Georgia's democracy but, ultimately, to its independence.

There have been some disturbing reports concerning efforts to prevent some political leaders from running in the parliamentary election and attempts to intimidate local opposition, including denying them access to media. These issues must be addressed in order to ensure that Georgia has truly free and fair elections.

With this resolution today, we affirm that the United States remains committed to the sanctity of Georgia's sovereignty and independence and to the inviolability of its federation and its internationally recognized borders. We also remind Georgia of the opportunity it has next month to solidify Georgia's democracy by ensuring free and fair elections.

Let me say, on a personal note, that I am very proud of the relationship between the United States and Georgia, and I would look forward to a day when Georgia is a member of the European Union and also a member of NATO. I think that the West must not overlook its commitments in Georgia simply because we may wish to have better relations with Russia.

We can never cast aside democratic principles because they happen to be inconvenient at the time. We should stand with the nation of Georgia and let the world know, including Russia, that we stand by their democracy and will not allow any slipping backwards and will not allow Russian hegemony in the area.

We stand by a free and independent Georgia, so I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ENGEL. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Let me say in conclusion I am glad that we have cooperation, as we generally do, in the Foreign Affairs Committee for working together on these issues. But I just want to say that I wish we had more cooperation in working together on some of the other issues of the day.

We are leaving town in 2 days without enacting into law middle class tax cuts, the farm bill, the Violence Against Women Act, a responsible deficit reduction. Those are the priorities that are urgent, and we should be working on them right now in a bipartisan way--the way we are working on these issues. The American people cannot afford a Congress that refuses to act on issues critical to middle class families, small businesses, farmers, and women. So I just want to urge the Republican leadership to let us stay in town and complete work and work together for the betterment of the American people, the way we are doing with these three resolutions.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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