Passage of Resolution 1244 by the UN Security Council on June 10 marks the end of the phase of the conflict in Kosovo that began with the NATO bombing campaign on March 24. The focus now shifts to reconstruction and the return of refugees under UN auspices, safeguarded by international peacekeeping forces now deploying in Kosovo. New challenges include investigating war crimes, creating an interim UN civil administration and concluding a just political settlement for Kosovo and for the wider region.
The USCC has been deeply engaged in the Kosovo crisis by addressing the relevant moral and policy issues, including the refugee crisis, and by working closely with Catholic Relief Services, the single largest private relief organization assisting Kosovar refugees in Albania and Macedonia.
USCC policy has addressed the following issues:
- Yugoslav aggression and ethnic cleansing. Since March, 1998, when the latest Yugoslav offensive against the Kosovar civilian population began, the USCC has repeatedly called on the the Yugoslav authorities to halt their unjustified and morally intolerable campaign of aggression and forced displacement.
- NATO intervention. With the Holy See, the USCC supported the principle of humanitarian intervention in Kosovo, while raising serious questions about the means chosen to confront aggression. In several statements (March 24, March 31 and May 7), Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, NCCB/USCC President, raised serious concerns that strategic bombing risked violating relevant moral norms of discrimination, proportionality and likelihood of success. Despite the suspension of the bombing campaign and withdrawal of Yugoslav forces, these concerns remain valid issues for discussion.
- The refugee crisis. The USCC continues to support the swift and orderly repatriation of refugees under international military protection. We have urged that refugees be allowed to return to their own homes, with generous international assistance for reconstruction.
- Final settlement. With the Holy See, the USCC supports a negotiated political settlement that respects the wishes of the inhabitants of Kosovo, while also respecting history, international law and minority rights. Current USCC and Vatican policy opposes forcible changes in international borders, which would occur in the event of Kosovar independence without Yugoslav consent. The same objection would apply in the case of partition without the consent of both sides.
For further information, see our website (www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/kosovo.shtml) or contact
USCC European Affairs Advisor John F. Cullinan, S.J. at 202-541-3445 (ph) / 202-541-3445.