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WEF says 2003 meeting will return to Davos

Safety and others issues have been considered in the location of the WEF annual meeting Keystone Archive

The World Economic Forum (WEF) plans to hold its 2003 annual meeting in Davos if the Swiss government quickly implements a new agreement on conditions for the meeting.

In a statement on Wednesday, Klaus Schwab, president of the WEF, welcomed action taken by the Swiss cabinet, saying it fulfilled the “necessary prerequisites” to maintain Davos as a location for the forum’s annual meeting.

The prestigious WEF annual meeting is the largest gathering of economic and political leaders, who assemble to debate key global issues. The WEF itself is supported by 1,000 leading international companies.

“We look forward to our return to Davos in 2003, where for the last 32 years we have built up a tradition of open dialogue,” he said.

This year’s annual meeting is being held in New York City, a move that the WEF had said was a temporary step to improve security for delegates to the conference. Many business representatives of Davos have lobbied hard to have the annual meeting returned to Davos, citing the large potential loss of business.

The WEF’s announcement came just hours after the government agreed to financially support a plan to bring the annual meeting back to Davos.

WEF said the return to Davos is “subject to the timely implementation of the decisions” of the cabinet. “After evaluating the (2002) meeting in New York, the World Economic Forum will consult with its members concerning the long-term policy on the location of its annual meetings,” the WEF said on Wednesday afternoon.

Millions for security

The Swiss government’s planned contributions include up to SFr12 million ($7 million) for security over the next three years and a further SFr100,000 to set up a foundation to finance projects to discuss globalisation, according to a statement by the economics ministry earlier on Wednesday.

More than half the funds for the WEF meeting are to be provided by cantonal and local authorities as well as the private organisers.

The cabinet has pledged to support the cantonal authorities at the event with personnel and logistical backup, including helicopters.

Authorities in host canton Graubünden said that with the government’s help, they could guarantee security for next year’s forum.

There are no present plans to close off Davos to ensure the event passes off smoothly. Turning the resort into a “bunker” is not on the cards, said Stefan Engler, a Graubünden parliamentarian who also is a member of the WEF commission.

Clash in Davos

Last year’s annual meeting in Davos was overshadowed by clashes between security forces and anti-globalisation protestors.

Critics argue that the heavy presence of police and other security forces during the annual meeting of the WEF has turned the mountain resort into a fortress. Local citizens and parts of the business community in Davos have also become increasingly disenchanted with the event.

The number of police set to ensure security at next year’s forum should it take place in Davos, is being kept secret for now. However, the head of the Graubünden police office, Markus Reinhardt, warned that confrontation with protestors could not be rule out.

“After September 11, anything is possible,” he said.

The government said it was in the interest of the country to host the annual meeting of the WEF again in Switzerland.

“The decision to organise the annual meeting 2002 in New York, after the tragic events of September 11, was the right decision for the right venue at the right moment,” said Schwab.

Spirit of Davos

The proposed alternative foundation has been dubbed “In the Spirit of Davos”.

The economics ministry said the aim was to provide a platform of dialogue among representatives of non-governmental organisations, personalities and experts from the world of politics, business, culture and religion.

The statement added it was important to get away from confrontational attitudes, and to foster dialogue among supporters and critics of globalisation, regardless of whether the annual WEF meeting will return to Davos.

Several non-governmental organisations, however, have expressed scepticism about the alternative event. They pointed out that such a platform should not be used as a pretext to ban demonstrations.

swissinfo with agencies

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