Switzerland at Expo 2020 Dubai: Federal Councillor Cassis takes policy decision on sponsorship deal

Bern, 30.07.2019 - The FDFA is no longer pursuing the possibility of a sponsorship with Philip Morris International (PMI) for the Swiss pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis made this decision so as not to undermine the primary objective of the Swiss presence in Dubai, which is to convey a positive image of Switzerland. Mr Cassis has also instructed Presence Switzerland to revise the FDFA's current sponsorship policy by the end of 2019.

The search for sponsors is currently under way for Switzerland's participation in Expo 2020 Dubai. As previously decided by the Federal Council and Parliament, 50% of the budget for the Swiss pavilion (CHF 7.5 million) is to come from private funding.

During this exploratory phase, Presence Switzerland – the FDFA office responsible for preparing Switzerland's presence in Dubai – has been in contact with various potential sponsors, including Philip Morris International (PMI). This stage of the preparations focuses on technical aspects such as finding private sponsors and working out the details of possible partnerships. With a sponsorship worth around CHF 1.8 million, PMI would have made a significant contribution to the required level of third-party funding.

During this stage of the process, FDFA Head Ignazio Cassis had been briefed in general on the progress made in securing sponsors although not on the details of individual cases. He became aware of talks on a prospective partnership with PMI in mid-June but, as a doctor of preventive medicine very much in favour of preventing the harmful effects of tobacco, he viewed the idea with scepticism. He therefore chose to await the outcome of any sponsorship talks before making a final decision. According to the project schedule, this would have been in the third quarter of 2019.

In response to media reports in recent days, Mr Cassis has looked into the situation in more detail and requested further information and options concerning a partnership with PMI. After examining the case, he decided that the work on this sponsorship should not be continued. This is because such a controversial partnership could undermine the overriding goal of the Swiss presence, which is to convey a positive image of Switzerland. "Switzerland should be seen in Dubai as a country that is united and, at the same time, open and friendly," said Mr Cassis. This is also in line with the Federal Council dispatch of May 2017 on Switzerland's participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, which noted that private sponsorship should not compromise the objectives of Switzerland's communication abroad.

In addition to making this decision, Mr Cassis also instructed Presence Switzerland to revise the FDFA's sponsorship policy. Specifically, this means deciding how much private sponsorship should reasonably be sought for future projects. Moreover, Presence Switzerland is to revise the current sponsorship manual by the end of 2019 and update it if necessary. This will entail formulating the criteria for future sponsor partnerships with head office and the representations abroad.

The outcome of this work will then also be decisive in developing the 2020–23 strategy for Switzerland's communication abroad.

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs