“You actually run from one focal point to the other all day.” This is how head of protocol Dieter Borer describes his job at the WEF.
Leah HartmannEditor Politics
In the end, the beef ragout and Ticino polenta go back into the fridge for Federal Councilor Albert Rösti (55). Because a meeting lasted longer than planned, the Environment Minister only has 18 minutes for lunch this afternoon, including the order. Sporty, but doable, his team apparently thinks.
But when the three chefs are already at the stove, the message comes: Order cancelled. It’s not enough. Rösti has to go to the next WEF event in the house on an empty stomach. And the waiter can take off the white gloves that are used when there are important guests.
The staff at the House of Switzerland are used to plan changes. Dieter Borer (51) is constantly on the phone or walkie-talkie to organize something or to coordinate with his colleagues. Borer is the head of protocol at the House of Switzerland and in this capacity something like the chief coordinator.
Gala dinner on the ice field
Since 2019, the federal government has been transforming the HCD Stadium in Davos into the House of Switzerland for a week. In the boxes, where VIP guests usually watch the ice hockey match, Federal Councilors meet with foreign counterparts. Over 50 bilateral meetings will be held in the stadium these days. Panel discussions take place on other floors, and the media conferences of the Federal Councilors in another area of the stadium.
“The House of Switzerland is Switzerland’s showcase at the WEF,” says Alexandre Edelmann (43), ad interim head of Presence Switzerland, the department responsible for country communication in the foreign department. Companies and organizations can present their commitment to sustainability or their innovative strength, for example. With the house you want to show “that Switzerland is an important player,” says Edelmann.
Raclette with the Prime Minister of Luxembourg
At a quarter to two, Federal President Alain Berset (50) took the stage on the third floor of the hockey stadium. Before that he met the Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (49) for a raclette together. Now he is opening a panel discussion on the subject of plastic pollution, with guests including the directors of the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, as well as the President of Ecuador.
With two trucks and two delivery vans full of material – furniture, flags, dozens of meters of red carpet – they drove up to the ice rink last week, says Michela Lucchini (56) from the Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics. The crockery, which was also used, for example, for the gala dinner organized by the WEF with founder Klaus Schwab (84), comes from the Bernerhof, the seat of the finance department in Bern.
“The most stressful time of the year”
“The WEF week is the most stressful time of the year for me, there are very intense days,” says Lucchini. Her colleague Borer from the foreign department describes his job as follows: “You actually run from one focal point to the other all day.”
The employees of the House of Switzerland want to do everything perfectly. Outside, someone regularly wipes the snow off the red carpet, federal councilors and their entourage are accompanied from appointment to appointment, the service employees know exactly what the magistrates like. Who would rather have sparkling water than non-carbonated water? And how about coffee or tea?
But despite all the preparations, sometimes a talent for improvisation is required. When he poses for a photo in between, Chief of Protocol Borer says that he accidentally packed two different shoes. So he first had to go in search of new sneakers in Davos, he reports with a smile. Then he has to go on. His colleague informs him that he has to be with Albert Rösti in two minutes. The Federal Council must be accompanied to the next meeting. He probably doesn’t have time to eat now either.