Rome

Premier vows 'national benefits' in Milan Expo pow-wow

Master plan to outline deadlines for 2015 World's Fair

Premier vows 'national benefits' in Milan Expo pow-wow

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, July 5 - The Italian premier hosted a meeting Friday with officials and organizers of the upcoming Expo Milan 2015 to discuss how to get the most out of the colossal undertaking for the entire country, and how to make sure billions of euros in preparations will be ready in time. "I drove home that this is an event of national proportions that will involve the entire country," said Enrico Letta. "Each ministry has decided on a master plan with all the commitments and deadlines for each department". The master plan will be presented in full detail in September, he said. "Also the six-month period in which Italy holds the EU presidency (from July to December 2014) will have a strong connection to the Expo," he said, mentioning plans "to hold many meetings in Milan," starting with a joint summit of the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Meeting with the premier, who co-presided with Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, were Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia, Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni, the event's CEO Giuseppe Sala, Milan Provincial President Guido Podesta', and the head of the Expo coordinating commission Maurizio Martina. "I found the government to be attentive and ready to intervene," said the mayor of Milan. "It has understood how the Expo will be a great cultural and economic event that it can use to boost the country". The regional governor said he was also "impressed" by the government's attitude regarding the Expo, which is also known as the World's Fair. "This is a showcase of Italy to the world," said Maroni. "Some 90% of the world population will be represented, so we can't make any missteps. But I'm sure that the commitment guaranteed today will let us pursue our goals". The premier also ensured that the government would "guarantee that construction (of the Expo sites) was carried out lawfully". Expo 2015, which runs May 1 until October 31 that year, is expected to attract over 20 million visitors and to be a massive money spinner for Italy's business capital. Preparations on a 1.1-million-square-meter site have been underway for years. Italy last hosted a World's Fair in 1992 with a Christopher Columbus-themed Expo in Genoa. Expo 2015 is already close to hitting its target of having 130 countries sign up by the end of the year after the Comoros Islands became the 129th last month. Of those, 57 have already signed participation contracts for the Milan fair. The theme of the Expo 2015, 'Feeding the Planet - Energy for Life', centers on fighting famine and malnutrition worldwide through sustainable development, global cooperation and new technology. Former American vice-president and Nobel Peace Laureate Al Gore has endorsed the event, calling the theme "very solid" and designed to have "zero (negative) environmental impact".

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