As the rich and powerful of the world reach Davos for their annual talkfest, the Swiss authorities have turned this small ski resort town on the Alps into a fortress-like area with up to 5,000 army personnel at work, including for civil support duties. The elaborate security paraphernalia costs millions of Swiss francs for this small town with a native population of little over 1,000 people.
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However, it is likely to host nearly 4,000 people this week, including more than 500 journalists who have come here to report on the global elite that includes over 50 heads of states expected at the World Economic Forum’s 47th Annual Meeting. The 5-day event, beginning today, itself will have nearly 2,500 participants from business, politics, research and culture who will travel from around 90 countries.
The World Economic Forum annual meeting is one of the most important economic and socio-political events in the world. Each year, countless influential politicians, business leaders and scientists from many countries around the world come to Davos. For about a week, Davos, Graubünden and Switzerland are the focal points of national and international media attention.
The Swiss Federal Council considers the WEF annual meet to be an exceptional event for Switzerland as it provides a unique opportunity to cultivate relations with a great many leading figure at a special setting. According to Swiss government data, the additional costs to the public authorities for security at the WEF annual meeting 2017 are estimated to amount to around CHF 9 million.
Of that, CHF 8 million is split between the partners as follows: Canton of Graubünden: CHF 2 million, Davos: CHF 1 million, Confederation: CHF 3 million, WEF: CHF 2 million; 80 per cent of the remainder is likely to be covered by the Swiss Confederation and 20 per cent by the other partners. The federal government’s share amounts to 3/8 of overall costs of security at the WEF. However, due to cost ceiling, this sum is limited to a maximum of CHF 3 million per annum.
In the event that the ceiling for security costs of CHF 8 million per annual meeting is exceeded, the federal government will make available additional funds not exceeding CHF 750,000 to cover the three annual meetings in 2016-18. In the event of exceptional incidents (such as terrorist attacks, assassination attempts on politicians or business leaders, major threats of such acts), the federal government covers 80 per cent of the costs of additional arrangements required for internationally-protected persons.
The deployment of the armed forces in support is funded through the normal budget. Overall, the cost of deploying troops at the WEF annual meeting is much the same as that incurred by the same battalions when on regular training. In previous years, the deployment of the armed forces has cost an average of CHF 28 million per meeting.
The World Economic Forum is a foundation. In the financial year from July 2015 to June 2016, it reported a turnover of CHF 228 million and a surplus of CHF 1.2 million, which is paid into the foundation capital. In addition, the WEF annual meeting generates significant direct and indirect economic effect for Davos, Graubünden and Switzerland as a whole.
A study commissioned by WEF and conducted by the University of St Gallen calculated that the annual meeting generated additional turnover in 2015 of about CHF 50 million. Additional turnover of around CHF 79 million was generated in the rest of the country. A number of agencies from the Confederation, the canton and the commune of Davos work together with WEF. The Graubünden cantonal police and its partners ensure the security of visitors to the WEF meeting, the local population and guests.
The Swiss government feels that terrorist threat in Switzerland remains high. Despite the attacks in Paris, in the opinion of the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS), Switzerland is still not regarded as a priority target for jihadist terrorists. “On the other hand, even on Swiss soil, the interests of states participating in the military coalition against the so-called Islamic State face an increased threat.
“Currently, however, FIS has no specific evidence of threats directed at the WEF annual meeting or individual participants or delegations. There will be a more visible police presence at the annual meeting, reconnaissance will be intensified and police checks will be increased.” All cantons in Switzerland make personnel and equipment available for maintaining security and protecting people and property as part of an inter-cantonal police operation.
The Federal Assembly has authorised deployment of up to 5,000 armed forces personnel for civil support duties to assist the canton of Graubünden. Responsibility for two areas of security rests with the Confederation. For internationally protected foreign persons such as heads of state, heads of government or serving members of government, the Federal Security Service will order special protective measures, if necessary. These, along with the general security plans, are carried out by the cantonal police and its partners.
The Federal Council has also imposed security restrictions on the airspace over Davos to safeguard air sovereignty. Civilian aircraft may continue to fly through the restricted airspace provided they have been announced and identified. Helicopter traffic to and from Davos has to be controlled during the WEF annual meeting. Restrictions also apply to paragliders, drones and model aircraft, among others.
The authorities of the Confederation and the Canton of Graubunden consider the World Economic Forum annual meeting to be a place of open dialogue. As such, critical debate on issues such as globalisation and the development of the world economy should be possible. However, the authorities expect the concerns, arguments and proposals of critics to be put forward in a peaceful manner.
“The Graubunden authorities are willing, in principle, to authorise a demonstration this year. However, it is essential that requirements to protect people, infrastructure and property are respected,” the government said.
If a demonstration is held in a town square or involves a march, detailed arrangements have to be made between the organisers and the authorities. Considerations such as traffic routing have to be taken into account, as do the needs of the local population and holiday guests. Requests for authorisation to hold a demonstration must, therefore, be submitted as early as possible, and no later than 48 hours prior to the planned event.
The threshold set for police intervention will be consistent with that applied in previous years, which has proved to be effective. Intervention is appropriate when the law is broken in order to send a clear signal that violence will not be tolerated. The proven strategy of dialogue, de-escalation and firm response within the scope of what is proportionate will continue to be applied.
In order to ensure an open and comprehensive briefing of the media and the general public on all aspects of WEF annual meetings in Davos, the Graubünden authorities, in cooperation with the commune of Davos and the Confederation, have set up an external media centre as well as the website. Winter sports in the Davos and Prattigau region are generally not affected during the WEF annual meet. There are no general travel restrictions. Davos is accessible by public transport, by road or on foot.