Anti-globalisers dominate Milan Expo 2015
The Expo 2015 world fair showed potential as a backdrop for serious diplomacy as it opened
on Saturday for a six-month run, even as it also served as a lightning rod for anti-globalisation protests. North Korea stepped out of its isolation as a last-minute participant, and there are signs that Turkey may use the occasion to reach out to the Vatican weeks after it recalled its ambassador to the Holy See over the pope describing the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.
Not all of the diplomatic signals around Expo have been positive. India, in a drawn-out dispute with Italy over its determination to put two Italian sailors on trial for the shooting deaths at sea of two fishermen, skipped the global event due to the tensions, Expo organizers said. With food as the theme of this year’s event, culinary delights from host Italy and beyond will be one of the main draws for the fair’s hoped-for 20 million visitors.
But the Milan Expo already had greater ambitions, with the Italian government backing a process to create a document of solutions to fight hunger and food waste, among other goals. A violent protest on Saturday, however, left torched cars, smashed bank and shop windows and other damage in the streets of downtown Milan, far from Expo’s sprawling grounds on the financial capital’s outskirts. Protesters split off from a generally non-violent march a few hours after Italian Premier Matteo Renzi inaugurated the fair.
Police fired tear gas and sprayed water after protesters, many wearing scarves or hoods to mask their faces, tossed bottles and incendiary devices, set cars and garbage bins afire and smashed pavement. Firefighters worked to extinguish the blazes. Some marchers’ placards protested a high-speed rail line being built in northern Italy as well as Expo 2015 and other “big projects.”
In a peaceful protest on Friday by students, participants opposed the inclusion of food corporations like Coca Cola, Nestle and McDonald’s in the fair. Protester Selam Tesfai said those companies don’t adhere to the Expo’s slogans of “feeding the planet” and “energy for life.” “They only gonna to try to make profits on our lives and we are tired of that,” she said.