International Exhibitions are global events dedicated to finding solutions to mankind’s fundamental challenges. They focus on specific themes, offering visitors an engaging and immersive experience. They are organised and facilitated by governments and bring together countries and international organisations, thus succeeding in catalysing the interest of millions of visitors and creating dynamics of change in the host cities. For their regulation and supervision, the BIE – Bureau International des Expositions was created in 1928. It is an intergovernmental organization that organizes four types of Exhibitions: Universal EXPOs, Specialised International Exhibitions, International Horticultural Exhibitions and the Milan Triennale. The BIE’s purpose is to ensure the quality of EXPOs and Exhibitions and to protect the rights of organisers and participants.
Universal EXPOs take place every five years. They last up to six months and welcome tens of thousands of visitors. They are organised around a theme with the aim of improving people’s knowledge, as well as highlighting scientific, technological, economic and social progress. They are true large-scale platforms for education and progress that act as a bridge between governments, companies, international organizations and citizens.
Specialized International Exhibitions
Organised in the period between two Universal EXPOs, they have a maximum duration of three months and, compared to the latter – for which no limitation is placed on the exhibition area – a maximum surface of 1,000 square metres is envisaged for each Country Pavilion. They deal with a specific and limited theme, which is a distinctive feature of this type of exhibitions.
International Horticultural Exhibitions
Since 1960 the BIE has granted recognition to International Horticultural Exhibitions, approved by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH)). These Exhibitions last a maximum of six months and are designed to promote cooperation and knowledge sharing in the agricultural sector, by addressing key issues such as healthy lifestyles, green transition, sustainability, education and innovation. A minimum period of at least two years between exhibitions organised by two different countries and of at least ten years between events organized in the same country is set for their organization. The IGA Internationale Gartenbauausstellung – (international gardening exhibitions held in Germany) and the Floriade (international gardening exhibitions held in the Netherlands) are recognised on a recurring basis.
The role played by the Italian Foreign Ministry
On the occasion of the above-mentioned International Exhibitions, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation plays a primary role in supporting the candidacies of Italian cities within the BIE.
Once the city has confirmed its candidacy, the Government proceeds to forward it to the BIE. The candidacy may be submitted between six and nine years in advance of the Exhibition or, alternatively, within six months of another city submitting its candidacy. Once the candidacy has been formalised, the support of the Foreign Ministry, which promotes it through its network of diplomatic-consular offices, becomes crucial.
It also plays a primary role in ensuring Italy’s adequate participation in Exhibitions held in other countries. In consultation with the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the Foreign Ministry takes care of Italy’s participation as an exhibiting country and of the administrative procedures leading to the appointment of the EXPO Commissioner General, as well as the contacts with him/her. In this way, consistency is ensured with Italy’s foreign policy and promotion strategies.
The Milan Triennale
The Milan Triennale International Exhibition, established in 1923, is the only exhibition expressly mentioned in the 1928 Convention on International Exhibitions and is one of the most important events dedicated to architecture and design on the international scene. Accreditation as “exposition reconnue” – a specific category of international exhibition that takes place in the periods between two Universal EXPOs – provides a particularly important institutional status to the Exhibition, envisaging that the profile of participants is a direct expression of the national States; that the organization of the event follows specific qualitative criteria set by the Convention, and that the event can benefit from some customs facilitations.
States are invited to participate in the Triennale by means of a letter signed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation or, sometimes, by the President of the Council of Ministers.
The Italian Foreign Ministry has long included the promotion of the Milan Triennale in the framework of the broader support for the Italian cultural and creative industry sector.