After two years of virtual meetings, the standard-bearers of the world’s economic and political elites will drop again starting Sunday at the Swiss station in Davos, this time with two changes of draft: it will be a meeting without snow on the streets or trace Russian presence at the meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF, for its acronym in English). Western ostracism over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reached the small Alpine town in compliance, its organizers say, with international sanctions.
“After its condemnation of the current Russian attack on Ukraine, the Forum is complying with international sanctions,” declared those responsible for the event a few weeks ago. “Accordingly, the Forum suspends all its relations with Russian entities and will not be related to any sanctioned person or institution,” they added.
But the rupture seems to have a longer path than the mere compliance with the sanctions. In fact, after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the approval of severe sanctions, including the expulsion of Russia from what was until then the G8, the WEF had a notable Russian participation the following year and Vladimir Putin himself was invited to the annual meeting, although he ultimately declined to attend. The founder of the Forum, Klaus Schwab, assured then that he hoped that the event would serve to “build bridges” between the different parties of the incipient conflict in Ukraine. Putin’s last participation in the Forum took place in 2021, an edition that was held in virtual format.
The banks Sberbank and VTB and the energy company Gazprom were until a few weeks ago strategic partners of the WEF, which means that they paid around 600,000 Swiss francs a year (above 575,000 euros) just for having a prominent role in the activities of the WEF. Forum. “The strategic partner community comprises 100 leading companies from around the world, each selected for its commitment to improving the state of the world,” says the WEF on its website. Some Davos regulars will miss not only the presence of prominent Russian entrepreneurs and multinationals, but also its famous parties, which included spoonfuls of caviar, numerous models and famous singers, such as Enrique Iglesias, to entertain the guests.
In this edition, which will have as its motto History at a turning point: public policies and business strategiesNor will any representative of the Chinese Government attend, which in some years has even had the presence of President Xi Jinping, although there will be a discreet business representation. On the part of the United States, the country with the largest number of participants, John Kerry, the President’s Special Envoy for Climate and Secretary of State under Barack Obama, will be the highest-ranking official to attend the ski resort.
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Around 2,500 participants, almost 300 from government bodies and 50 heads of state and prime ministers will pass through the well-known Davos Forum over the next week. The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, will have an outstanding participation in this edition, in which he will address the participants next Tuesday 24 from the plenary session of the Congress Center and will participate in two round tables. Along with him will attend the third vice president, Teresa Ribera.
Against the background of the war in Ukraine, the evolution of the conflict and the new world of blocs that is emerging will focus much of the interest of the Forum, whose opening speech will be given by the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelensky. “The annual meeting of the WEF is the first summit that brings together global leaders in this new situation, characterized by an emerging multipolar world as a result of the pandemic and war”, underlines the founder of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, in the note of presentation press of the meeting.
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