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Shaheen Legislation to Promote Democracy and Economic Development in Western Balkans, Resolution Condemning Hamas’ Use of Sexual Violence Passes Committee

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), senior member of  the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chair of the Subcommittee on Europe Regional Security and Cooperation, applauded committee passage of two pieces of legislation: her bipartisan Western Balkans Democracy and Prosperity Act and her bipartisan resolution condemning Hamas for using sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war against Israelis during the October 7th terrorist attack.

In response to her legislation related to the Western Balkans, Shaheen said: “Today the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a message of renewed commitment to Western Balkan nations by advancing my bipartisan legislation. I wrote this bill to focus on the opportunity to deepen our commitment and investment in the region by strengthening trade and economic cooperation and sharpening U.S. tools to address malign influence, corruption and other efforts which attempt to undermine the democratic aspirations of the region. Most importantly, if signed into law it would codify executive orders to address corrupt and anti-Dayton behavior in the Western Balkans, making clear that the United States will not tolerate efforts to undermine peace and stability in the region. I look forward to working with my cosponsor, Senator Wicker, to advance its full passage.”

Specifically, the Western Balkans Democracy and Prosperity Act

  • Establishes a regional trade and economic competitiveness initiative, which 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 for each country in the Western Balkans to develop a national anti-corruption strategy.  
  • Codifies 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.  
  • Boosts university partnerships and youth initiatives, encourages Peace Corps engagement in the region and encourages the Development Finance Corporation to consider opening a previously announced office in the region.
  • Recognizes the key role of cyber security in protecting critical infrastructure and countering malign activities by adversaries including Russia and Iran.

Shaheen is a leader in the Senate on U.S. policy toward the Balkans. She has led three congressional delegations to the region in the past two years, most recently leading a delegation with U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) to North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she delivered a keynote address at the inaugural Sarajevo Security Conference. In October 2022, Senator Shaheen served as an election observer for the national elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Senator Shaheen is also the lead on bipartisan legislation, the Srebrenica Remembrance Act, which was introduced in October 2023.

In response to her resolution condemning Hamas’ use of sexual violence during the October 7th terrorist attacks, Shaheen said: “The deliberate use of rape and sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war by Hamas terrorists against the people of Israel is atrocious. Footage and first-hand accounts of the horrors that happened to Israeli women, men and children on October 7th demonstrate that these actions – which are war crimes under international convention – were intended to torture, humiliate and oppress the victims. Today’s strong bipartisan support for the resolution sends a message that the Senate condemns the barbaric attacks of October 7th and the sexual and gender-based violence carried out by Hamas. The international community must continue to stand against rape as a weapon of war in all conflict settings.”

Full text of the resolution can be found here.