Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma told the press after a meeting of the ruling coalition parties on Monday that Latvia had not yet made a final decision about continuing or discontinuing its participation in Expo Milano 2015.
Latvia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU and relations with Italy are factors that will be considered when making the decision, the prime minister said, signalling a potential U-turn after a recent cabinet meeting agreed to at least drastically scale back Latvia's commitment to building a multi-million-euro pavillion at the event.
The Economics Ministry under Dana Reizniece-Ozola has recommended withdrawing from the event to save money and the potential embarrassment of not getting the pavilion finished on time.
Reizniece-Ozola said in an interview with the BNS newswire that the ministry had analyzed other options for using the plot Latvia has already reserved at the event, but preferred the option of pulling out altogether.
"The options [for using the plot assigned to Latvia at Expo 2015] have been analyzed but the costs will be large therefore I am going to suggest that we should not spend the taxpayers’ money on participation in Expo but the decision will have to be made by the government,” the economics minister said. She said she had consulted with tourism and market experts and they all had agreed that at present it would be irrational to invest money in Expo.
A tender to build a Latvian pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 ended without a result. The bids submitted by two contenders, Latvia's RBS Skals Buvvadiba builder and Italy's Paolo Beltrami S.p.A, were both rejected as flawed and too expensive.
The Economics Ministry then announced that Swiss company Adunic AG might construct the Latvian pavilion for 3.1 million euros, and the Latvian government in mid-December 2014 upheld a 1.6 million euros extra allocation for Latvia's participation in Expo Milano 2015, but the parliamentary committee for budget and finances (taxes) refused to approve the additional financing.
Moreover, too little time was left until the opening of the world fair and the government then abandoned the original plan for a grandiose oak-tree-shaped pavilion and instructed the Economics Ministry to consider other options, with Straujuma herself suggesting a large vegetable patch showcasing Latvian produce.
Expo Milano 2015 is due to take place in the Italian city Milan from May 1 to October 31, 2015.
The website of the event claims 145 participating countries - including Latvia - but nations such as Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Iceland and South Africa are not among listed participants.
An official description of the event gushes: "Participating Countries express the meaning and content of their presence at Expo Milano 2015 through a themed concept and have the opportunity to choose between two modes of participation: by building their own exhibition space (Self-Built Pavilions) or by choosing their own space inside one of the nine Thematic Clusters.
"The Exposition Site of Expo Milano 2015 is thus transformed into a mosaic of countries committed to creating awareness amongst the visitors around a theme that is crucial for future generations, making them part of a global project never seen before. 184 unique and unrepeatable days of culture and science, innovation and tradition, sustainability and solidarity in which you can find over a hundred national cuisines each with their own tastes, scents and colors."