Swiss government wants change to national exhibition project

The Swiss government on Monday expressed support for the troubled 2001 national exhibition project but said that some changes would be necessary. Key industry leaders said they would await a high-profile audit before committing more money to Expo.01.

This content was published on August 16, 1999 - 18:09

The Swiss government on Monday expressed support for the troubled 2001 national exhibition project but said that some changes would be necessary. Key industry leaders said they would await a high-profile audit before committing more money to Expo.01.

“It would be a mistake to abandon and destroy everything that has been built already,” said Swiss Economics Minister Pascal Couchepin after crisis talks in the town of Murten.

The crisis summit on the future of the project also involved President Ruth Dreifuss, Transport and Energy Minister Moritz Leuenberger as well as about 40 Swiss industry leaders.

The talks were mainly aimed at restoring public trust in the national exhibition and securing its financial future.

The project’s management problems have made headlines for months. The latest blow came a week ago, when embattled Director-General Jacqueline Fendt was sacked amid allegations of management inadequacies, sparking a major debate about the future of Expo.01

While Couchepin did not specify which changes he would like to see implemented in the Expo.01 management strategy, a top business representative from Basel pointed the finger at the steering committee, which has been overseeing the organising committee’s work.

Robert Jeker said the steering committee was too big and its make-up too political.

Switzerland’s major employers organisation, the Trade and Industry Association, said Monday that private industry would only re-commit itself after an independent financial audit by Swatch top manager Nicolas Hayek.

Hayek told journalists in Murten that he would screen the steering committee’s budgetary plans and would try to establish the project’s financial future.

Interim Director-General and Technical Director Nelly Wenger told journalists Monday that Expo.01 was still a "healthy project."

Wenger said organisers were still trying to win sponsorship support of between SFr250 million ($167 million) and SFr350 million ($233 million).

So far, signed sponsorship contracts or pledges amount to only SFr155 million ($103 million).

The Expo.01 project will see four major exhibition areas in the Neuchâtel, Murten, Biel and Yverdon-les-Bains regions in western Switzerland. The displays, installations and artistic projects are meant to portray the kind of social, political, scientific and educational topics which are relevant for modern day Switzerland.


From staff and wire reports.

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