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Snow hinders start of WEF summit

Just enough snow has fallen to cause havoc at Zurich airport Keystone

The start of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos has been affected by the first snow of the year in Switzerland.

This content was published on January 24, 2007 - 14:52

Also on Wednesday non-governmental groups criticised two major companies, Novartis and Bridgestone for what they consider irresponsible social and ecological behaviour.

Several flights were cancelled at Zurich airport and helicopters hired to shuttle VIPs to the event were unable to land in the mountain resort.

However, a WEF spokesman said most of the politicians and business leaders expected on the first day had simply changed to cars for the journey from Zurich.

"They know Davos and are prepared to change their mode of transport in case of snow," he said, adding that the most prominent politician taking part in the opening ceremonies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had left Berlin earlier than planned due to the bad weather.

The first snow of the year ended what was feared would be the "greenest" annual meeting of the WEF ever. Appropriately, many of the forums over the next five days will focus on climate change.

Global warming and security are the two dominant themes.

"On the one hand, we have an economy which is doing very well, and even the prospects for this year are very promising," said executive chairman and WEF founder, Klaus Schwab.

"On the other hand, we have many underlying imbalances, inconsistencies, weaknesses and fragilities. So what we want to do with this meeting is to highlight the need to address these global challenges."

Public Eye Awards

Anti-globalisation groups have awarded their annual prizes during a ceremony in Davos on Wednesday.

The Japanese tyre-manufacturer Bridgestone and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis were named and shamed for what the organisers considered particularly irresponsible social and ecological behaviour.

The two firms were chosen from a list of more than 40 from Switzerland and around the world.

Daniel Vasella, president of the board and Novartis chief executive, has dismissed the criticism.

He said the booby prize backfired on the sponsors of the awards.

Vasella other organisations recognised the Novartis humanitarian and social commitment. He said Switzerland's leading pharmaceutical company spent $750 million (SFr937 million) on medication for the needy.

For the first time the organisers of the Public Eye also handed out an award for positive achievements. It went to the Swiss retailer Coop for its organic food label, Naturaplan.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Public Eye Awards for "outstanding social and ecological irresponsibility" take place every January in parallel with the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.

The event is co-organised by Swiss political NGOs the Berne Declaration and Pro Natura - Friends of the Earth.

The awards are closely connected with the World Social Forum, which is being held this year in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Security

Security is tight as usual for the summit. The Swiss army is providing 5,000 soldiers and officers to back up the police, generating extra costs for the defence ministry worth SFr2 million ($1.6 million).

The air force will patrol the airspace above Davos, and flights over the town will be banned during the summit.

A number of areas where meetings are taking place will be closed off and only attendees and local residents will be able to access them.

Some roads will be shut off, bus stops moved, and parking spaces eliminated. Davos will continue to operate as a winter resort, although identity checks and searches will take place at all access points.

Total security costs will be around SFr8 million.

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