NEWS | Sept. 21, 2021

Vermont, North Macedonia officials discuss expanding state partnership

By Maj. J. Scott Detweiler

The Vermont National Guard hosted a press conference Sept. 21 with North Macedonia Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska, Vermont Lt. Gov. Molly Gray and Secretary of Commerce and Community Development Lindsay Kurrle to discuss new steps toward increased cooperation between the state and the new NATO ally.

During this press conference, hosted on the steps of the state house, the leaders described efforts to build upon a trip earlier this summer when Gray and Kurrle traveled with Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, the state adjutant general, to North Macedonia.

“What makes the National Guard State Partnership Program special is its design of pairing state national guards with host nation’s civic and military leaders, and all of them are very likely to mature within their respective organizations, so as a result you have long lasting and meaningful relationships,” said Knight. “Now, after nearly three decades of partnership we’re exploring the possibility of an enhanced economic initiative.”

Vermont and North Macedonia have enjoyed a long military relationship since 1993. Since then, the two have participated in over 350 military exercises together, culminating in a joint deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.

“It is the human contacts with Vermont, the day-to-day relationships between many men and women from both sides of the Atlantic that made {joining NATO} achievable,” said Shekerinska. “We pride ourselves to be an ally, but there is an extra level above being an ally, and that is being a friend, so I thank Vermont for being a friend to North Macedonia for all these years.”

Now, Vermont and North Macedonia seek to build upon that solid military foundation to establish new civic and economic opportunities for cooperation.

“Economic security is a key component of long term peace and security not only for Vermont, but for North Macedonia and across the globe,” said Gray. “While in North Macedonia we started identifying key areas of logical partnership. Understanding what Vermont has, understanding and learning what North Macedonia has, exchanges of best practices in agriculture, in tourism, academic exchanges; and the first visit of an economic delegation of leaders from North Macedonia to Vermont has been a natural next step in this partnership that is truly building momentum.”

While visiting Vermont, Shekerinska visited Vermont National Guard training areas and joint operations centers to determine what lessons learned may apply to the North Macedonia military. Simultaneously, an economic delegation traveled across the state with Gray and Kurrle to establish relationships with higher education, agriculture and adventure tourism, among other opportunities.