Burkhalter believes Switzerland’s involvement with the Italians is particularly important given that Italy is an immediate neighbour and the country’s second biggest trading partner. The Italians also represent the largest foreign community in the country with some 500,000 Italians living in Switzerland.
Burkhalter denied that the tax dispute between the two countries, which has soured relations, had provided the impetus to join the expo, newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.
Despite the proximity and relationship between the two countries, a study commissioned by the Swiss showed that Switzerland’s image in Italy is one made up primarily of clichés.
While many of these reflect a positive image of a clean, calm and beautiful country, the findings reflected that more work should be done on perception of the Swiss people as warm and friendly, and as internationally cooperative.
Participation at the Expo is thought to cost some 23.1 million francs ($24.4 million), of which 8 million francs ($8.4 million) is to be covered by sponsors. Some 20 million visitors are anticipated, 2 million of which are likely to be Swiss.
The Expo will be launched under the heading “Feeding the planet, energy for life”, and will focus on how to tackle the various challenges facing the world in terms of sufficient food production and supply.
Switzerland’s exhibits will consider one’s own consumer behaviour, and will demonstrate to visitors how their choices affect the availability of food elsewhere.