Ahead of 20th Anniversary of Dayton Accords, Shaheen and Wicker Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Encourage Job Creation & Economic Stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina

November 19, 2015

 

**This afternoon, President Bill Clinton praised legislation in Dayton speech**   

**Shaheen-Wicker bill would provide affordable financing for entrepreneurs with limited access to credit**

(Washington, DC) – Today, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the lead Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee for European Affairs, and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced bipartisan legislation to help bolster the economy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has struggled to keep pace with the political progress in that country brought about by the signing of the Dayton Accords 20 years ago.  This bipartisan legislation would establish an enterprise fund, directed by a board of American investment professionals, capable of leveraging both public and private funding to provide entrepreneurs access to the same kinds of loans and investment opportunities afforded to small and medium-sized American businesses.  By strengthening the private sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this legislation would help to create space to continue moving forward on political reforms.

This afternoon, during a speech at Dayton University to mark the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Accords, former President Bill Clinton praised the introduction of the Shaheen-Wicker legislation, citing private sector investment as “essential to the growth of that economy.” The Clinton Administration was instrumental in negotiating the Dayton Agreement that brought an end to the Bosnian war.

“Since the end of the Bosnian war 20 years ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina has travelled a long and difficult road towards peace and reconciliation,” said Shaheen. “Economic growth and opportunity are critical to sustaining this country’s significant progress. This bill is an opportunity for the United States to step-up its efforts to promote stability in the region by providing much-needed financing to proven job-creators, while also opening up investment opportunities for American businesses.”  

“Since my first visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, the country has made tremendous progress,” Wicker said. “This bill would reinvigorate private sector development and provide opportunities for American investors. Our efforts are modeled after successful development programs for Eastern European countries following the fall of the Iron Curtain.”

Currently, per capita income in Bosnia and Herzegovina still averages less than $5,000 annually, compared to over $13,000 in Croatia, just over the border.  The unemployment rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina stands above 40 percent, and in 2014, protests broke out across the country as a result of widespread frustration among the populace regarding the economy, which runs an annual trade deficit of almost $4 billion.  

The Shaheen-Wicker legislation would establish an enterprise fund modeled after U.S. programs that supported Central and Eastern European economies after the fall of the Berlin Wall with approximately $10 billion of public and private funding. Specifically, the legislation would promote the private sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina by authorizing the fund to use up to $30 million dollars over 15 years to bring American investors into the Bosnian and Herzegovinian economy.

November 21st marks the 20th anniversary of the peace agreement reached at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH, that brought an end to the Bosnian War. This summer, Senators Shaheen and Wicker accompanied President Clinton Bosnia and Herzegovina on a U.S. delegation to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica.  

Text of The Bosnia and Herzegovina-American Enterprise Fund Act can be viewed here