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EU leaders attacked over WEF no-show

Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, has criticised European leaders for failing to attend this year's summit in Davos.

Reflecting on six days of high-level discussions, Schwab bemoaned the absence of the heads of state of Germany, France, Britain or Italy.

Schwab said this was in stark contrast to the United States which sent five cabinet ministers led by the secretary of state, Colin Powell.

Americans also made up one-third of the 2,000 business, political and media participants during the six-day summit.

“Europe seems to be too preoccupied with itself… and that was a disappointment,” said Schwab. “And it was a disappointment for many of the American participants who came.”

Despite the European no-show, Schwab maintained that this year’s meeting had achieved its objective, serving once again as a platform for critical debate on world affairs, notably over the threat of war in Iraq.

Vocal criticism

Schwab indicated that some of the more controversial discussions would not have been possible had the forum been held in the United States, as it was in 2002.

This was a theme touched upon by others, including the former Swiss cabinet minister Adolf Ogi, who told swissinfo that people felt more free to speak out than they did in New York.

Schwab also signalled that he had no plans to abandon the 1,500-meter-high alpine resort where the annual gathering of global political and business leaders has been held for 32 of the WEF’s 33 years.

However, he declared his intention to shift the WEF summit from its home in Davos in 2005, before returning in 2006 and 2007.

Schwab said he was eager to pursue the World Bank’s policy of holding two out of three meetings at “home” (New York in the bank’s case) and hosting it every third year elsewhere – potentially in a developing country.

swissinfo, Jacob Greber, special correspondent in Davos

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR