News Story: Balkans set to get aid of $100 million - November 2, 1999 Balkans set to get aid of $100 million

Fund will rebuild civil society, Axworthy says

By Allan Thompson
Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau - Nov. 02, 1999

OTTAWA - Canada will spend $100 million to help Kosovo and the Balkans rebuild society by doing such things as training peacekeepers and police and fixing schools and hospitals.

``We will be providing the best capacity of Canadians in rebuilding a country,'' Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy said at a press conference yesterday where the new fund was announced.

``And that's as important a way of establishing influence and in being able to effect change and make a difference as it is by simply providing troops,'' Axworthy said.

The $100 million will come from the central treasury and will not be deducted from the existing budgets of any department involved, Axworthy said. About 70 per cent of the money will be devoted to Kosovo, with the rest going to peacekeeper training in other countries of the region.

Axworthy said that if countries had spent more promoting civil society in the Balkans years ago, billions of dollars devoted to peacekeeping and waging war in Kosovo could have been saved.

Four cabinet ministers attended the joint press conference to announce the funding. Axworthy was flanked by International Co-operation Minister Maria Minna, Defence Minister Art Eggleton and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan.

Canada is also opening an office in Pristina, Kosovo, to help administer the aid program.

But Yugoslavia will be excluded from the rebuilding program until the regime of President Slobodan Milosevic is replaced, Axworthy said.

``We are looking forward to the day when we can provide assistance throughout Yugoslavia and when Yugoslavia can be reintegrated,'' he said.

Minna said that helping to rebuild civil society by training police, fixing up schools and hospitals and providing counselling for trauma victims is just as important as sending soldiers to do peacekeeping.

While a detailed plan how to spend all of the new money is still being worked out, the ministers announced three key projects:

  • The defence department and RCMP will co-operate on a $12-million project to establish the Canadian Regional Training and Support Project. The project will reinforce armed forces and police training in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Croatia and Bosnia and is projected to run for five years.

    Most of the money will be spent on English and French -language training to assist countries in working with NATO and on peacekeeper training for military and civilian personnel. The remaining $1 million will be devoted to police training to combat organized crime and will be conducted by the RCMP.

  • In the area of health and education, CIDA will contribute up to $5 million over the next 18 months to fixing up schools and hospitals in Kosovo damaged by the war. The focus will be on activities that support primary health care and support for those traumatized by the war, especially children.

    A detailed plan is still being worked out

  • With winter coming on, CIDA will contribute $6.2 million to efforts by CARE Canada, The Centre Canadien d'Etude et de Co-operation Internationale and World Vision to help provide shelter for 5,000 families. Using the CIDA funds, the three groups will supply emergency shelter packages including wood, plastic, stoves, windows, doors and insulation. The same program will support de-mining efforts in areas where shelters are being constructed.

    In a separate meeting with reporters in Ottawa yesterday, the new head of the Atlantic alliance said Canada's defence spending needs to be increased because it ``languishes'' just above that of tiny Luxembourg when measured per person among NATO countries.

    Using unusually blunt language, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said Canada needs to upgrade its military - particularly the army - if it wants to continue to play a leading role in NATO.

    Despite the criticism, Robertson called Canada a ``good strong NATO ally.''