Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today welcomed the Honorable Hashim Thaçi, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, to Iowa during a meeting in the governor's formal office of the Iowa Capitol.
During the meeting, the governor, lieutenant governor and Prime Minister Thaçi discussed the unique Iowa-Kosovo partnership, which began informally through the more than 700 Iowa National Guard soldiers who have served on peacekeeping missions there since 2003, and has evolved into a formal relationship through the State Partnership Program (SPP), beginning in March 2011.
The SPP, a collaboration between the U.S. State Department, the National Guard Bureau, and the individual states' National Guard forces, enables partner nations to experience the full breadth of U.S. capabilities, such as assisting in the development of democratic institutions and open market economies, improves military interoperability, and promotes political and economic stability.
The Iowa National Guard and the state of Iowa are bringing a Whole of Iowa, Whole of Kosovo approach to strengthen this young democracy and create a prosperous and secure Kosovo by sharing ideas, strategies, and resources for economic development, education, public health, and security.
The governor and prime minister also agreed to arrange for a formal sister state relationship between the state of Iowa and the Republic of Kosovo.
Gov. Branstad will travel to Kosovo in early July to officially sign the sister state agreement establishing Iowa's ninth sister state with the Republic of Kosovo. In addition to his meetings in the Republic of Kosovo, the governor will also participate in events and business meetings in the Veneto Region of Italy, which is a current Iowa Sister State. While in the region, the governor will also pursue business leads arranged by the Iowa Economic Development Authority in Germany and Switzerland.
"Many Iowans have served with peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo and it is very fitting for Iowa to form an official sister state and enhance our partnerships in the areas of agriculture, economic development, public health and education" said Branstad. "The focus of our trip to Kosovo and the European region will be to foster Iowa's sister state partnerships and promote Iowa's exports, while exploring options for companies interested in building facilities here in our state."
"It is such an honor to receive visits from leaders like Kosovo President (Atifete) Jahjaga last year and now the Prime Minister. We are so proud to work with the leaders of each of the 187 countries of which Iowa currently exports manufactured and value-added ag products. It is a great opportunity that helps to increase Iowa's exports and create more jobs right here in Iowa," said Reynolds.
For more information on Iowa's sister state program, visit: http://www.iowasisterstates.org.
Additionally, if Iowa media have additional questions about the State Partnership program, they can click on http://www.eucom.mil/key-activities/partnership-programs/national-guard-state-partnership-program and also go to www.iowanationalguard.com. They can also contact the Iowa National Guard Public Affairs Office at 515-252-4582.