Baltimore Press

Senator Mikulski Announces $300 Million in Balkan Aid, Questions Linger

In Baltimore, two events outlined a rising philosophical divide between crisis-relief organizations as they rush to save hundreds of thousands of lives in Kosovo and the surrounding regions of Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Senator Barbara Mikluski (D-Md), a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, appeared at the Catholic Relief Services National Headquarters in Baltimore yesterday morning, to announce a plan for $300 Million in federal emergency humanitarian funds for the Kosovo crisis. Then, yesterday evening, The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization with interna­tional crisis relief services in the Balkans, held a silent vigil in Homewood to protest the NATO bombing of Serbia.

The question has become whether a military body can also perform humanitarian aid in its own theater of war. The $300 Million relief package from the United States would be distributed through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees [UNHCR], which has formed a relationship with NATO to provide the infrastructure and transportation necessary to confront what may prove to be the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II.
Catholic Relief Service is the “prin­cipal implementing partner” for UNHCR, according to the CRS press release.

Sen.Mikulski, at yesterday’s press conference, stated that “While the military aspects of the war in Kosovo are extremely important, I am here today to make sure that we also address all of the humanitarian needs of the refugees. There needs to be a public/private partnership.” Catholic Relief Services Executive Director Ken Hackett continued “We will deliver relief, but we need NATO to build an infrastructure.”

Prior the press conference, Mikulski conferred with Hackett, and via telephone, the emergency relief coordinator for Europe, David Aldridge. The Senator dubbed it her “going to the Balkans by proxy.” Afterwards, she referred to what was related to her as “deeply trou­bling.”

The proposed funding could not come at a more advantageous time.

According to UN intelligence, an estimated 100,000 Ethnic Albanians are being forced to the Macedonian border, adding to the 300,000 refugees the Catholic Relief Services is already helping.
“It is outrageous; NATO is a mil­itary force,” said Gary Gillespie, a local spokesman for the American Friends Service Committee before yesterday’s vigil. “It is part of the problem.” Carl Maugeri of the Committee’s national headquarters agreed, “we wouldn’t be working with a military aggressor.”

Other relief agencies also have stressed their independence from the UN mission. A source from the International Red Cross told The Baltimore Press that “they would not be participating in NATO logis­tics.” In an April 10th New York Times interview, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders, Joelle Tanguy, said that “In the minds of Americans and Europeans, the military and the relief organizations are working on one side of the war…but we can’t be.”

Catholic Relief Services’ parent organization, the United States Catholic Conference (USCC), also appears wary of the relationship. Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza, President of USCC, wrote in his “Statement on Kosovo” that “the NATO bombing campaign poses difficult moral and policy ques­tions…the humanitarian objective— protecting civilian populations, which have already suffered greatly, from further indiscriminate attacks—is a legitimate one. What is less clear are the consequences of the use of force.”

NATO’s military operation is also about to expand. On Thursday, the Pentagon announced its intent to deploy 300 more planes to the Kosovar region, call up between 30,000 to 33,000 reservists (largely pilots, aircraft crew members, and logistical support crew), and release a projected $5.9 Billion to fund the continuing air strikes.

Donation hotlines for the human­itarian relief effort in the Balkans:
Catholic Relief Services 1-800- 736-3407
Associated Jewish Charities 410.727.4828 extension 250
American Friends Service Committee 1-888-588-2372 (contri­bution line)

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