**Shaheen is Chairman of the SFRC Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation**
(Washington, DC) – US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and chairman of the SFRC Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperationrenewed bipartisan pressure with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to promote cooperation with the Western Balkans region by reintroducing their legislation, Law on Democracy and Prosperity in the Western Balkans. Shaheen and Wicker’s bill would support democratic stability and economic development in the region through initiatives on infrastructure, trade and anti-corruption, including codifying sanctions to deter actors from pursuing activities destabilizing. The bill also seeks to strengthen U.S.-Balkan cooperation on cybersecurity and cyber resilience, following malign efforts by Iran and Russia to target countries in the region.
Shaheen and Wicker reintroduced their legislation ahead of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearing on the Western Balkans later in the morning, who can be broadcast here at 10:30 a.m..
Senator Wicker (R-MS) is co-leading this bipartisan legislation with Shaheen, with original co-sponsorship from Senators Cardin (D-MD), Durbin (D-IL), and Van Hollen (D-MD).
“Maintaining peace and strengthening democracy in the Balkans is essential to European security and stability, especially as Putin’s unprovoked war in Ukraine rages. My bipartisan legislation will strengthen trade and investment between the United States and the Western Balkans, root out corruption, codify sanctions against destabilizing actors, and send a strong bipartisan signal that the United States is committed to our partners in the region .“said Senator Shaheen. “Last year, I visited the Western Balkans and met countless people committed to building a strong democratic state for future generations. Together, we can work to strengthen democratic institutions and build a more peaceful and stable region to combat Putin’s harmful influence.”
“The Balkans are home to a diverse and dynamic cultural heritage, and their geopolitical importance continues to grow,” said Senator Wicker. “Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine underscores the importance of our partnerships in the Balkans. Passage of this bill would be a clear, bipartisan statement of the United States’ commitment to strengthening our diplomatic partnerships in the region. »
“This important, bipartisan bill, calling for a strategic approach to U.S. policy toward the still-volatile Western Balkans region, will move us in the right direction. » said Senator Cardin. “Our legislation will advance regional stability and anti-corruption efforts by establishing programs that encourage inclusive economic development, a national anti-corruption strategy, and holding accountable those who threaten peace in the Western Balkans. We must continue to support our democratic partners and allies.
“As Putin’s unprovoked war in Ukraine continues, we must not forget the hard-won peace in the Balkans, which suffered terrible violence after the breakup of Yugoslavia. » said Senator Durbin. “The United States and our allies have contributed greatly to ending this horrific conflict, and this legislation reaffirms our commitment to seeing a stable future for the region, one rooted squarely in the West. »
“As Putin continues to wage his brutal war against Ukraine, our global alliances remain strong in defense of human rights and self-determination. Strengthening our relationship with the Western Balkans will allow us to continue to develop these vital diplomatic efforts and spur greater cooperation between our nations,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This legislation will help us work with our partners to promote valuable economic opportunities, combat corruption and strengthen cyber resilience to continue working towards greater democracy and stability in the region. »
Specifically, the Western Balkans Democracy and Prosperity Act:
- Establishes a regional trade and economic competitiveness initiative that would support democratic resilience, economic development and prosperity in the region.
- Establishes an anti-corruption initiative that directs the Secretary of State to provide technical assistance to each Western Balkan country to develop a national anti-corruption strategy.
- Codifies two U.S. executive orders that would authorize sanctions against those who threaten peace and stability in the Western Balkans and engage in corrupt behavior.
- Stimulates university partnerships and youth initiatives, encourages Peace Corps engagement in the region, and requires the Development Finance Corporation to open a previously announced office in the region.
- Recognizes the key role of cybersecurity in protecting critical infrastructure and countering malicious activity by adversaries, including Russia and Iran.
The full text of the bill is available here.
Shaheen is a chief in the Senate on American politics towards the Balkans. Last year, Shaheen led a bipartisan congressional delegation with Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) in the Balkans to convey continued U.S. support to its allies following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the implications for European security In the region. During their visit, the senators met with members of their respective countries’ governments, members of civil society and members of the press to address numerous issues, including support for the region in the context of the invasion Russia’s unprovoked Ukraine, anti-corruption efforts, democratic reforms, youth engagement, safeguarding press freedom and much more. Shaheen led action in the US Senate in support of Ukraine in response to Vladimir Putin’s aggressiveness, which also threatens the stability and security of Europe and its NATO allies. She led two bipartisan delegations to Ukraine And participated in a visit by a Congress delegation to Poland Last year. Shaheen is co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group, which she helped reestablish with Senator Tillis in 2018. She and Tillis participated in NATO summits in Brussels and Madrid.