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Expo 2000 celebrates Swiss day

Switzerland is the centre of attention today at the world exhibition in the German city of Hanover. The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, has launched Swiss day with a declaration that the country is in top form.

In his opening speech, Ogi insisted that "Switzerland exists", a reference to an exhibition in Seville eight years ago that claimed just the opposite.

From the inside, Switzerland was "an attractive country offering good quality of life", Ogi continued. From the outside, he argued that Switzerland was open, cooperative, trustworthy and solid.

At the end of his speech the president asked whether Switzerland might not be considered the most European country in Europe, a question reflecting the current discussions over Switzerland's relations with the EU.

The issue of Europe is clearly high on Ogi's agenda for the two-day visit to Germany. On Thursday, he defended Switzerland's European position in an address to Hamburg's chamber of commerce.

He said the bilateral free trade treaties with the European Union, approved by voters last month, were an important step towards closer ties with Brussels.

Ogi said that Switzerland had, for the time being, found a way of co-existing with Europe. He said the issue of full membership would take more time and depended on how Switzerland could maintain its sovereignty, neutrality and federalist system.

Aside from political debate, Swiss activity at Expo 2000 includes performances of plays, including one on the legendary William Tell, and music by the experimental Alphorn quartet, Mytha.

Switzerland has taken a novel approach to its pavilion at Expo, which opened on June 1. While many countries are trying to dazzle visitors with high-tech presentations, the Swiss have opted for a deliberately low-tech approach.

The organisers of the Swiss pavilion say its unusual wood structure and cultural installations are intended to be a refuge - an oasis for the senses - for visitors "exhausted" by information overkill and the "glare of high-performance multimedia presentations".

The pavilion is called the "Swiss Sound Box" and it aims to indulge the senses by offering a hospitable and relaxing environment, while seeking to surprise the visitor. One of the first surprises is the Sound Box itself. With 15 entrances, it is a literal interpretation of the concept "open-door policy", because none of the entrances has a door.

The building itself, designed by the Swiss architect, Peter Zumthor, is made of wooden beams simply stacked on top of one another. Mooring rods and steel springs keep the walls in place, and not a single nail, screw, bolt or drop of glue has been used. When Expo closes its doors, the undamaged beams will be dismantled and re-used as building timber.


swissinfo with agencies

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