Hopes for less hot air at G7 summit
In the Bavarian alps, world’s leaders have an ambitious agenda for discussion
Activists with balloons decorated with the portraits of leaders attending the G7 summit, in Munich, Germany. Photograph: Joerg Koch/Getty Images
Elmau Castle, tucked into the Bavarian alps and surrounded by lush forest, could be the backdrop for a Wagner opera. But for 24 hours from tomorrow, it will be the set for another kind of drama: the high-security annual meeting of the seven leading industrial nations.
Leaders have a long shopping list of issues to discuss at their retreat, 100km south of Munich, from the global economy to international co-operation on shared threats, including terrorism to antibiotic-resistant diseases. Then there are unresolved challenges from previous meetings – think climate change and UN health and development goals.
Overshadowing the agenda are two nations not even present: Russia, uninvited over its involvement in the Ukraine crisis, and Greece, absent yet present over its brinkmanship.
“We have an ambitious agenda,” said the host, chancellor Angela Merkel, to journalists this week with her trademark dry humour. She defended the meeting from critics, saying “you can’t solve all problems in a Sunday and Monday”.
“But we are hopeful we can add another stone in the long line of stones to build a better world,” she said.
As leaders head to their Alpine lockdown, with 17,000 local and federal police on duty,
Merkel’s officials have worked hard to reduce expectations. Memories are still fresh of the high hopes – eventually dashed – on climate change and developing country debt relief at the last German-hosted event in 2007.
But, in a sign of Germany’s growing global status, chancellor Merkel will meet US president Barack Obama before the meeting to discuss Ukraine, the resurgent Greek crisis and the TTIP transatlantic trade deal.
Obama and his officials will push ahead with their own Trans-Pacific trade talks and hold bilateral meetings, including with Britain’s David Cameron.
The first session Sunday will look at the global economy, the second on trade. After a working dinner, a concert and further bilateral meetings, Monday’s first working session will focus on energy and climate. Despite climate deadlock, some are hopeful the meeting can send a signal ahead of the upcoming climate talks in France.
Berlin and Paris are expected to make “zero carbon emissions” push at the meeting, against less-enthusiastic US, Canada and Japan.
A session on terrorism will hear contributions from the leaders of Iraq, Nigeria and Tunisia, to be followed by a working lunch on development issues of hunger and malnourishment – part of the UN’s next development plan.
Other security issues likely to be discussed include ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, the battle against Islamic State and the territorial standoff in the South China Sea.
Ahead of the meeting Merkel has defended the decision to exclude Russia from the meeting, reducing the G8 to G7. US officials say they expect lengthy discussions on the Ukraine crisis, and underscore the need for sanctions against Russia while talks continue for a diplomatic solution based on the two Minsk agreements of September 2014 and February 2015.
“I think we will affirm the importance of maintaining sanctions on Russia to incentivise full implementation of the Minsk agreement,” said Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.
Ahead of the meeting, estimated to cost €90,000 a minute, the One NGO fronted by U2 singer Bono floated outsized balloons of G7 leaders’ in front of Munich town hall to underline what they say is leaders’ love of hot air over real substance.
Lack of real progress on pressing issues has only fired up globalisation critics, who question the legitimacy of the meeting. Bavaria has refused permission for protest camps on public land, with local farmers reportedly leaned on to do the same.
Despite the security lockdown, and fears of riots among locals, politicians from the picturesque Garmisch region are hoping for tourism boost from summit coverage.