At least 70 people have held demonstrations at Switzerland's largest consumer fair, MUBA. They were protesting against the presence of the Army at the fair, and this year's advertising campaign featuring a naked, pregnant woman.
At least 70 people have held demonstrations in Basel at the scene of Switzerland's largest consumer fair, MUBA. Some were protesting against the presence of the Army at the fair, while others were complaining about this year's advertising campaign which uses a naked, pregnant woman to promote "the mother of all fairs."
Accompanied by military music, one antimilitarist banner read "no army in the stomach of the mother of all fairs". The demonstrations went off without incident, and there was no large police presence. The protesters did not try to prevent the visitors from entering the exhibition hall.
Besides the photograph of the pregnant woman, the presence of a shooting simulator of the Swiss Army has also divided opinions.
Responding to the criticism surrounding the poster, which included a protest from the Swiss Catholic Women's League, the president of Basel Fairs, Robert Jeker, said that the organisers had wanted to give Switzerland's oldest fair a new image.
"If we have shocked people, we regret that," he said during the opening ceremony.
The organisers say they have received more positive responses than negative criticism and believe the poster served a useful purpose.
"We are convinced that the aesthetic campaign pleases most potential fair visitors and therefore will have the desired effect," says MUBA director Kurt Frischknecht.
The Army's shooting simulator was to have been shown by the Swiss Army at its special exhibition stand but after a storm of protest - centring mainly on the possible negative effects on children - it was withdrawn at the last minute, not without the shaking of some heads.
"This simulator is more than ten years old and it's been shown at fairs before. In fact, 60,000 civilians have practised on it so it's nothing new," said Brigadier Faustus Furrer, project leader of the Army's presence at the fair.
In his speech, the Swiss foreign minister, Josef Deiss, made a call for the Swiss to approve the bilateral accords with the European Union in next month's vote on the issue. He said it was a tailor-made package bringing concrete progress and pragmatic solutions for Switzerland.
"I think we must move into the 21st century with pride, dynamism and confidence, and take our place in Europe and the world," he said.
The guest country at MUBA 2000 is Brazil, which wants to show that it's not just a country of samba and football. The high-tech firm, Embraer, is on show to highlight its deal providing the Swiss regional carrier, Crossair, with its new family of jet aircraft.
Add attractions such as Switzerland's world champion kick-box champion, Andy Hug, a show devoted to classical and complementary medicine, an area for modern living and a Business Class for schoolchildren...and you end up with something for everyone. That's MUBA 2000 in Basel.
swissinfo with agencies