France reaffirms Expo 2020 commitment

27 May 2020
In conversation with Erik Linquier, commissioner general for the France pavilion at World Expo 2020 Dubai and chairman of Cofrex

1. How can participating nations treat the Expo postponement as a positive opportunity? 

The postponement of Expo 2020 is a significant challenge for all the countries. In the coming year, we will continue working and rethinking the ambitions of the France pavilion, alongside our partners and stakeholders. Moreover, I am convinced that the Expo 2020 organisation will keep being fully committed to making this World Expo a memorable and unique event so it can be experienced and appreciated by all. 

2. What are your sentiments about the Expo postponement? 

France welcomes the one-year postponement as the priority is protecting public health and safety. Once this pandemic is behind us, it will be crucial as a global community for us to bring all the nations together in one place in order to create cohesion and unity – pooling all energies, innovations and solutions to environmental, social, economic and health challenges. 

3. What are the next steps since the postponement is confirmed?  

In the coming year, the entire Cofrex team will continue to work on the France pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. This extra year will give us the opportunity to further focus on the programme and experience we want to create for our visitors on the France pavilion. The France pavilion is adapting to the new schedule and will optimise this extra time to strengthen the visitor experience, programming and communication. 

4. Will the pavilion be completed as planned? Are you reaching out to any FM companies currently to ensure the upkeep of the pavilion for the extra year - especially given the sandy and hot conditions in Dubai? 

Since the beginning of the crisis, we have ensured all the necessary measures on the construction site, starting with social distancing and a reduced number of employees to guarantee their health. This obviously affects the pace of construction; and the health crisis is also causing some delays on the site due to slower production and late delivery of certain materials.

Initially planned for this summer, the delivery of the France pavilion will now be amended in alignment with the measures put in place by the Expo 2020 authorities and the UAE government in terms of health, in particular for the employees working on the site. 

Now that the decision to postpone has been made official by Expo 2020 Dubai, we are working with our builder Besix to study the modalities for implementing the postponement of the delivery date of the pavilion, and we will tell you more about it very soon. And naturally, we will implement a maintenance plan adapted to the pavilion without public for the extra year. 

Moreover, the France pavilion has been designed according to Dubai standards and regulations and is therefore perfectly adapted to the local climate (high temperatures, wind and termites). Thus, I ensure that the France pavilion can withstand an extra year. 

5. How does this affect any programmes or exhibitions that France had planned for the Expo? What do you foresee will be the impact of a postponement on pavilion partners and volunteers?  

The postponement of Expo 2020 is a huge challenge for the Cofrex team, which remains committed to making the France pavilion a must-see event at Expo 2020. We are adapting to the new schedule and will optimise this extra year to pay even more attention to the visitor experience and to a reinvented program, especially by mobilising the French community in the emirates.  

Indeed, France benefits from very close relations with the UAE, developed on many levels: institutional (Alliance Française, Institut Français), economic (French Business Council, French Business Group, Business France), educational (Sorbonne Abu Dhabi) and cultural (Louvre Abu Dhabi). This close relation is possible thanks to the incredible French expatriate community that makes France live abroad, spreading our know-how and our art of living. I believe they will be the best ambassadors of the France pavilion in the emirates.  

Moreover, we are naturally developing our programmes and exhibitions with our sponsors. They have confirmed their support by maintaining their participation at our side: I thank them warmly for their cooperation, trust, and energy. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that the France pavilion is a unique experience for visitors. Indeed, Cofrex and its partners share the ambition to present to the public the French expertise in the field of smart, connected, sustainable and inclusive cities.  

To achieve this objective, France pavilion will bring together renowned French companies, start-ups and local authorities in many fields that contribute to urban development: green mobility, the environment, energy, living environment, sustainable innovations, etc. They all have demonstrated their ability to adapt to technological developments and to offer ever more innovative and digital solutions, and this is what will be at the heart of the pavilion's permanent exhibition. 

6. What monetary losses will you face due to the year-long extension? How do you plan to recuperate these costs? 

The budget dedicated for France’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai amounts to €28m, including €19.76m by a state grant. It is important to remind that this allocation is slightly less than invested in 2015 in Milan, in a context where construction and operation costs are 30 per cent to 40 per cent higher in Dubai than in Milan. 

Moreover, since Cofrex was created, a public-private partnership has very quickly emerged for the France pavilion, both in terms of financing and content. Thus, in the context of the postponement we are encountering, we keep our exchanges with new companies and local authorities that wish to join the France pavilion to embody French know-how and innovation at the World Expo. 

7. Are you offering any support/guidance for visitors from France, who may have pre-booked their tickets and hotels for the Expo?

The Expo 2020 Dubai team oversees the arrangements for welcoming visitors to the event. The organisers have shared that tickets purchased for the Expo would, as far as possible, be valid in 2021 and that visitors unable to attend the Expo in 2021 would be refunded.

Concerning hotel and flight reservations, Cofrex is not able to give an opinion and encourages those who planned to come in 2020 to contact Expo 2020 directly.

Cofrex is the public company in charge of the France pavilion. Its aim is to prepare, organise and promote France when it takes part in World and Specialised Expos

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