Wicker, Shaheen Introduce New Bipartisan Bill to Support Economic Development, Promote Democratic Resilience & Combat Corruption in the Balkans

August 4, 2022

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., today introduced new legislation called the Western Balkans Democracy and Prosperity Act. This legislation would support economic development in the region through initiatives on infrastructure, trade and anti-corruption, including codification of sanctions to deter destabilizing activity In the Western Balkans.

Senators Durbin, D-Ill., Tillis, R-N.C., Van Hollen, D-Md., Cardin, D-Md., and Murphy, D-Conn., are original cosponsors of the bipartisan legislation. 

“The Balkans are countries with a rich and varied heritage, and they also occupy an increasingly important position in European affairs,” said Wicker. “This bill would send a strong bipartisan signal that the United States is committed to supporting diplomacy in the region.” 

“Amid Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine and Putin’s clear ambitions to spread malign influence across Eastern Europe, the United States’ relationship with the Western Balkans is pivotal. That’s why I’m proud to introduce new bipartisan legislation that strengthens trade and investments between the U.S. and Western Balkans, while rooting out local corruption and codifying sanctions against destabilizing actors – all of which pave the way for greater Euro-Atlantic integration,” said Shaheen. “When I traveled to the Western Balkans in the Spring, I met with young leaders who shared their dreams of building a prosperous future in countries with strong democratic institutions and economic opportunity. Their stories – their visions of building a brighter future for the next generation – inspired my legislation. This region deserves every tool possible to build sustainable democracies, and I’m proud to lead this bipartisan bill that would foster relations between the U.S. and our Balkan partners and encourage greater regional integration.” 

Specifically, the Western Balkans Democracy and Prosperity Act would: 

  • Establish a regional trade and economic competitiveness initiative, which would support democratic resilience, economic development and prosperity in the region. 
  • Establish an anti-corruption initiative that directs the Secretary of State to provide technical assistance for each country in the Western Balkans to develop a national anti-corruption strategy.  
  • Codify two U.S. executive orders that would grant authority for sanctions against those who threaten peace and stability in the Western Balkans and are engaged in corrupt behavior. 
  • Boost university partnerships, encourages Peace Corps engagement in the region, creates a Balkans Youth Leadership Initiative and requires the Development Finance Corporation to open a previously announced office in the region. 

Full text of the bill is available here.