G7 summit: Merkel in command but some wonder about security overkill

Chancellor Angela Merkel had something for everyone at the summit

Some 20,000 officers were on duty, swamping the pretty corner of Bavaria. Photograph: Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Some 20,000 officers were on duty, swamping the pretty corner of Bavaria. Photograph: Johannes Simon/Getty Images

 

The Bavarian G7 summit won’t be remembered for its modest news value. But anyone looking in the future for an image of Angela Merkel at the peak of her pragmatic powers could easily choose one of the many carefully choreographed shots from Elmau Castle.

The five-star hotel, set in Alpine foothills 100km south of Munich, was once a discreet retreat for German artists and industrial families, a place where golddiggers famously worked the season for half nothing as chambermaids to snag an heir.

It was industrial leaders rather than industrial families who checked in for 24 hours to the century-old hotel, rebuilt after a 2005 fire. And, steering and nudging her six male visitors to agreement on Greece, Russia, climate change and global pandemics, was the inexhaustible German chancellor.

Despite 16-hour days, an endless Greek crisis and an EU singed on its fringes by conflict, the German leader said last week that her job was still fulfilling.

After a decade in the saddle, however, she worked to play down her dominance in Bavaria, making sure every leader headed home with something.

True to the Merkel method, the final G7 communiqué was an incremental agreement that made modest steps forward on pressing global issues, in particular UN agreements looming this year on climate change and development goals.

First, Merkel set aside time for a public breakfast with Barack Obama, a clear effort to restore transatlantic ties burdened by the Snowden revelations. But in doing so Merkel only emphasised how she has become Obama’s go-to leader in Europe.

French leader François Hollande has some climate-change momentum for end-of-year talks in Paris. Britain’s David Cameron is happy the G7 will tackle Fifa-style corruption.

Tough talk

On EU trade talks she assured her guests – and in particular Obama – that she would not let Europe fall behind the Asia-Pacific in securing a trade deal with the US.

But as the G7 rolled up its high-security tent for another year, Germans in Bavaria had mixed feelings. Though flattered by praise for their flawless organisation, some cringed at the beer and lederhosen images sent around the world from Merkel’s Sunday breakfast date with Obama.

Hollande, one German commentator argued, would never surround the US president with Frenchmen wearing berets and strings of onions.

And the jubilation of German organisers at avoiding the riot imagery synonymous with G7 meetings only came about by swamping the region with police, banning protest camps on public land and reportedly leaning on local farmers to refuse similar requests too.

With 20,000 federal and Bavarian officers on duty in riot gear everywhere you looked, the G7 turned this pretty and quiet corner of Bavaria into a haunted region. With a ratio of five to one, the police-to-protester presence at Bavaria’s G7 was far more impressive than that of the carer-to-child situation at German kindergartens.

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