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New president chosen for Swiss Arts Council

Mario Annoni will take over the presidency of the Arts Council in 2006

(Keystone)

The government has named a new president for the Swiss Arts Council and appointed the board members of the foundation for the next four years.

Mario Annoni, a member of the Bern cantonal government, is replacing Yvette Jaggi at the helm of Pro Helvetia - the Swiss organisation for promoting the arts.

More than a third of the current board members have been replaced, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

The board of Pro Helvetia has been reduced from 35 to 25 members and legislation is being drafted to reduce this number further to nine.

The mandate of the new board will only last until the new law comes into force, some time in 2008 or 2009.

Candidates for the board are chosen according to their abilities, but there has to be a gender balance, equal representation from the country's different linguistic regions and the different disciplines of the arts.

Annoni, who is trilingual in French, German and Italian, has been a member of the Bern cantonal government for the centre-right Radical Party since 1990. He holds the portfolio of director of education and culture, but is due to resign next year.

Jaggi, a former Senator, has been in the post since 1998 and has to step down after having served two terms.

Interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, said the new president would have to be quick off the mark, because Pro Helvetia was going through radical reform. He called Annoni a "model Swiss", becaue of his mixed linguistic background.

Various arts organisations also welcomed Annoni's appointment. The association of Swiss authors said his appointment came at an important time for cultural politics, adding that they hoped Pro Helvetia would stay as independent as possible.

Budget

The Arts Council receives approximately 3,500 applications for funding every year. About half of the applicants are granted funding. The minimum grant is SFr500 and the maximum SFr300,000.

Last year parliament decided to cut SFr1 million ($0.8 million) to SFr33 million from Pro Helvetia's 2005 budget in the wake of a row over the sponsoring of a controversial exhibition in Paris.

Entitled "Swiss-Swiss Democracy", the show by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn featured an attack on the justice minister and rightwing Swiss People's Party figurehead, Christoph Blocher. It also took aim at the country's system of direct democracy.

For the 2004-2007 funding period the federal authorities allocated a global budget of SFr137 million to Pro Helvetia.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Along with the Federal Culture Office, Pro Helvetia is the main federal channel for the encouragement of the arts abroad.

The board of the Arts Council is chosen by the government, on the recommendation of the interior Ministry.

The board normally serves for four years.

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Key facts

In 2004, Pro Helvetia distributed some SFr24 million in funding for cultural projects - SFr11 million in Switzerland and SFr13 million abroad.
The organisation supported 4,190 projects in 2004, about half of them in Switzerland.
In spring 2005 parliament cut the annual budget by SFr1 million to SFr33 million, to indicate its disapproval of one of the council's funding decisions.

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