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World EXPO have been growing and developing since 1851 and remains one of the major events to this day, often compared to the Olympic Games and many other international events. Currently world EXPOs take place for six months every five years. Participated by the majority of the states of the world (e.g. 155 states in Hanover in 2000, 192 in Shanghai in 2010 and 144 in Milan in 2015), these exhibitions draw millions of people (e.g. the record of 63 million in Osaka in 1970 has been broken, when EXPO 2010 in Shanghai was visited by 73 million people).

Lithuania has been officially participating at the EXPO since 1937 and has not missed a single event (making a total of thirteen) since the restoration of independence. Lithuania has also been an active participant of the Bureau of International Exhibitions since the ratification of the Convention Relating to International Exhibitions in 2008. The planning of the state budget for 2019-2021 has given the Government a hard time of finding ways to allocate the necessary funds for the participation (preliminary calculations revolve around 6.5 million euros), attracting private business and making better use of the opportunities that the event can offer. Obviously, skipping such an important global event wouldn’t be wise. With a bit less than two years to the opening of the exhibition, we asked Romas JANKAUSKAS, Commissioner General of the Lithuanian Section at EXPO 2020 and Chief Ministerial Adviser of the Ministry of Environment, to share his thoughts about the future Expo, its participants and Lithuania’s visions.

What makes the future EXPO special?

The United Arab Emirates won the right to organise the global Expo in Dubai back in 2013, collecting the majority of votes at the General Assembly of the Bureau of International Exhibitions (BIE), where Lithuania gave its vote as well. The topic of the EXPO in Dubai is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ and it will take place from 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021. In 2021 the UAE will celebrate its 50th birthday. The EXPO will be participated by about 180 states of the world and the number of visitors is expected to reach more than 25 million with the majority (about 75 per cent) coming from abroad. The more than 4 km2 territory will feature impressive thematic pavilions (Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunities). For the first time in the entire EXPO history all states-participants will have their own individual pavilions.

Being one of the Top 10 richest countries of the world, a global centre of transport, tourism and trade, as well as the priority exports market for the majority states around the globe, the UAE keeps attracting the future EXPO participants like a magnet, including all Northern European states that had previously made shorter or longer breaks, the Balkans, which could not join the event before for economic reasons, as well as Portugal and all of the largest global economies – the USA, Japan, Korea, etc. China is ready to spend as much as 100 million dollars, the USA and Germany – 50 million dollars or euros each, other Western and Central European states – a dozen or more million euros, while Romania, Belarus and Latvia – 6–7 million euros, which are among the smallest participation budgets.

The thematic pavilions, designed by the most famous world architects, as well as the main Al Wasl square and the UAE pavilion, designed by the architectural genius of Santiago Calatrava, will be a truly impressive sight. The aspirations of the foreign states, participating at the event, look as impressive as well: the first to confirm their participation and original projects were Luxembourg and Switzerland. The British, as always, will demonstrate impressive scale and ideas, followed by solid German, Czech and Polish pavilions.

Lithuanian ideas: what and how?

The Government of the Republic of Lithuania has adopted the resolution ‘Regarding the participation of the Republic of Lithuania at the World EXPO 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates’ on 30 November 2017. The resolution has been also officially communicated to the UAE Government. Various ministries and state institutions, as well as associated business structures and creative unions have formed a coordination commission, while the Ministry of Environment, which conducts Lithuania’s representation at the EXPO, has drawn participation directions, referred to as Sustainable Synergies, offering ways of presenting Lithuania as a modern state that is open to the world and has preserved the true values.

The 1550 m2 plot, reserved for the Lithuanian pavilion, is located in the very heart of the territory nearby Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Czech Republic and Germany. The tender conditions for the project of the pavilion are also already prepared. The project of the Lithuanian pavilion, selected by an evaluation commission, will feature a two-storey building with terraces and/or semi-open spaces for welcoming visitors and conducting various activities. The usable floor area will constitute 800–1200 m2, featuring an exhibition hall of approximately 500–600 m2. The exposition will feature the best visual examples of presenting Lithuania (e.g. the latest version of Unseen Lithuania by Marius Jovaiša, introducing not only our unique landscape and cultural heritage, but also the country’s innovative achievements), adapted or newly-made films, videos and holograms about the advantages of Lithuanian investment environment, excellent infrastructure and people. The exposition will also include integrated most successful and visually attractive Lithuanian innovations, offering interaction opportunities to the visitors.

The other transformable space will feature constantly changing exhibitions, as well as business, scientific and cultural events for target audiences. Up to one fifth of the pavilion’s area will be dedicated for commercial activity, i.e. a café-bar and a shop of Lithuanian goods. The pavilion will also feature premises for receptions, representatives of institutions that coordinate business and constantly work in Dubai, the pavilion’s administration and service staff. The sustainable and Lithuanian nature of the building will be illustrated by materials, technology and equipment, developed or perfected and tested in Lithuania: colourful glass-glass solar modules, ice cooling systems, thermal blinds, solar agro solutions for terraces and the area around the pavilion, environmentally-friendly furniture, as well as exhibition, kitchen and office equipment.

Events representing Lithuania

In 2020 Lithuania will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the restoration of independence. Participation at the world EXPO in the United Arab Emirates, which will be preparing to celebrate the state’s 50th anniversary, is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how in three decades Lithuania managed to not only return to the family of the world’s independent states, but also make excellent achievements in all fields, especially high technology and innovation. The National Day at the EXPO is the major event for any country. Since this is probably the first time the EXPO takes place in winter, Lithuania will have an opportunity to celebrate the National Day on the special historical date of 11 March. The national delegation, usually led by the country’s President or Prime Minister, is often accompanied by a huge business mission. The cultural programme will feature Martynas Levickis and the Mikroorkéstra string ensemble, as well as other Lithuanian performers.

Business events, presentations of startuppers and their innovative projects and hackathons should take place at the pavilion according to a balanced and pre-planned schedule. In six months these could feature from several dozen to several hundred participants, representing Lithuanian business, science and promising youth. A group of businessmen offered an excellent idea to show the EXPO 2020 for 2020 of the most talented Lithuanian pupils and students by bringing them to the event. Should the idea be supported by the Ministry of Science and Education and business (so far it has caught the interest of the Small Planet Lithuanian charter airlines), it would be a huge investment into our country’s future, because visiting the global event, where you can see and experience the latest scientific and technological achievements at first hand, could become a great source of inspiration for the youth to create a better future.

Participation at the world EXPO is necessary not only for business, but also political and cultural relationships. During the exhibition the pavilion becomes an excellent communication platform for the soon-to-be-opened Lithuanian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates. All major meetings (business, diplomatic, scientific, etc.) will feature various Lithuanian performers, constantly changing exhibitions (paintings, video and photo art, etc.). Cooperation with the recently-opened modern art museum in Vilnius and other Lithuanian museums will flourish in exhibitions of selected works by various modern Lithuanian artists. The pavilion will also show teasers of the event programme of Kaunas as the European Capital of Culture 2022, the architecture, which was included into the preliminary list of UNESCO’s World Heritage, and one or perhaps even several of the masterpieces of the Lithuanian genius M. K. Čiurlionis.

Unique business opportunities

World EXPO is not a commercial fair – states participate there to improve their image and develop international connections in all fields, but business still takes a major role, especially in this case, when the EXPO takes place in Dubai – the global centre of transport, finances, innovation, tourism and international trade.

During meetings with representatives of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, Lithuanian Business Confederation, Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Lithuanian Resort Association, Council of Tourism, Lithuanian Food Exporters Association, Vilnius Tech Park, Saulėtekis and Santaka valleys, as well as individual companies (Solitek, Thermo Fisher, HoPro, Altas, TeleSoftas, etc.) we introduced them to the exhibition itself and participation opportunities. The business’ interest to participate and contribute with their funds, production or services was positive. Hopefully, private business will cover at least 15–20 per cent of the total costs needed for participation.

Differently from business exhibitions, instead of merely providing certain exhibition space for a certain amount of days or hours, EXPO offers much greater opportunities: advanced materials for the construction or installation of the pavilion or the main exposition, latest products are also offered at the national goods shop and café-bar. Participants can organise presentations in the space for temporary expositions, B2B events at the pavilion’s hall, as well as receive all the information on other EXPO participants and events. Participants will also receive all the necessary support (distribution of invitations, sound engineering services, translations, security, etc.) from the qualified staff of the Lithuanian pavilion. Patrons, the major sponsor, sponsors and partners will make use of the promotion of their brands and titles in the media, social networks, representational publication, during various events (a permanent stand at Litexpo for two years, a dozen of presentations at other locations) and, of course, they will enrich the Lithuanian pavilion in Dubai.

Spring 2021 harvest

Lithuanian pavilions at previous EXPOs were visited by 5–10 % of the total number of visitors, thus, we can expect 1–2 million visits in Dubai, as well as the same amount of visitors at the pavilion’s online website and social networking pages. The size of the target audience will directly depend on the events, organised at the pavilion.

World EXPOs are visited by up to 100 state leaders, hundreds of ministers, mayors and other high officials from all over the world every year. Successful representation at the exhibition would not only increase the amounts of goods already exported (furniture, grain, engineering equipment), but also open routes for other exporters, such as food and, especially, high-tech products, also strengthen cooperation in the fields of information and financial technology, renewable energy (especially solar modules), healthcare and life sciences, as well as promote tourism.

World EXPOs are important not only because of their themes, but also how they are represented. Lithuania has already won numerous awards of the Bureau of International Exhibitions and other international commissions for our architectural-artistic interpretation of the main theme, individual elements and details. The EXPO in Dubai wouldn’t be an exception. The preparation for the event and active participation is crucial for our country’s image and finding the best ways of introducing Lithuania to the world.

Article from magazine JURA