Branstad announces State Partnership Program between Iowa and Republic of Kosovo

March 17, 2011

- Governor Terry Branstad, Brig. Gen. Greg Schwab, the assistant adjutant general, Iowa Air National Guard, and the Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo to the United States, Avni Spahiu, today announced a newly-established partnership between the State of Iowa and the Republic of Kosovo.

The partnership is a result of the selection of Iowa by the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Guard Bureau for participation in the Security and Cooperation and State Partnership Programs (SPPs). The programs’ goals are to link National Guard states and territories with partner countries for the purpose of fostering mutual interests and establishing habitual, long-term relationships across all levels of society.

“I am delighted to announce the establishment of a State Partnership Program with the Republic of Kosovo, a great friend to the United States and a place with which our Guardsmen and women are already familiar through service in NATO’s Kosovo force,” Branstad said. “The State Partnership Program is a longstanding and important program, which will benefit both our Iowa National Guard and the Kosovo Security Force.

Evolving from the U.S. Dept. of Defense’s European Command “Joint Contact Team” Program established in 1992, the programs are characterized by bilateral reciprocal relationships between the state and partner country. With a current total of 56 SPP partnerships, the state partner opens doors for its partner country to the full depth and breadth of U.S. capabilities, assisting in the development of democratic institutions and open market economies, as well as generating interagency coordination, cooperation and enduring relationships.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008. In its declaration of independence, Kosovo committed to fulfilling its obligations under the plan established by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, as a fundamental principle of good governance and to welcome a period of international supervision.

The United States formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state on February 18, 2008. As of November 2010, 72 countries had recognized Kosovo’s independence, including 22 of 27 European Union member states, all of its neighbors (except Serbia), and other states from the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

Ambassador Spahiu has served as Kosovo’s first ambassador to the United States since November 4, 2009. Formerly the Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, he publicly acknowledged Kosovo’s debt to the U.S., in 2007, stating “America saved this nation and we will be forever grateful.”

Born March 12, 1956, in Mitrovica, Kosovo, Ambassador Spahiu grew up in Mitrovica, although he graduated from high school in Elk Rapids, Mich., in 1974. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature from the University of Prishtina (Kosovo) in 1978, and completed post-graduate studies in Literature at the Faculty of Philology there in 1986. Ambassador Spahiu has also translated and published more than 20 books into Albanian, and has written three books.

For more information concerning the State Partnership Program, please contact Col. Greg Hapgood, Iowa National Guard Public Affairs Officer by email at or 515-252-4582 (office) or 515-971-6385 (cell), or Master Sgt. Duff E. McFadden at, or 515-252-4666 (office) or 515-480-7647 (cell).