G7 summit: ‘We co-operate because we need to, because we want to’

Obama and Merkel put up united front over pre-G7 breakfast of boiled veal sausage

Group of seven: Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe; Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper; US president Barack Obama; German chancellor Angela Merkel; French president François Hollande; British prime minister David Cameron; and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi on their way into Elmau Castle near Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Sunday. Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

Group of seven: Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe; Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper; US president Barack Obama; German chancellor Angela Merkel; French president François Hollande; British prime minister David Cameron; and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi on their way into Elmau Castle near Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Sunday. Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

 

Everything went right on Sunday for Angela Merkel’s Amazing Alpine Spectacular. As the Magnificent Seven leaders arrived – first by helicopter, then golf cart, with no horses in sight – the weather was as perfect as the bucolic Bavarian backdrop of Elmau Castle.

The five-star hotel (overnight stays from €500, suites twice that) is in high-security lockdown behind a 16km-long fence until lunchtime today.

As usual, the 41st annual one-night stand of the leading industrial nations has attracted a cast of thousands (including 20,0000 police) and a budget of (200) millions.

It was a day of contrasts: carefully choreographed TV images of flower-filled alpine meadows while, out of sight of cameras overhead, the black helicopters buzzed around like mechanical bees.

Obama for breakfast

Barack ObamaWashington

In this part of the world, that means Weisswurst (boiled veal sausage, tastier than it sounds), bready prezels and that other crucial Bavarian foodstuff: beer.

The two leaders worked the crowd, each other and the media to demonstrate their friendship, two years after Edward Snowden revealed the US dragnet of European communications – including Merkel’s mobile phone.

Obama called the US-German relationship “one of the strongest the world has ever known”. “We stand together as inseparable allies in Europe and around the world,” he said.

Forgiving if not forgetting, Merkel stuck to non-alcoholic beer and remained her sober self, describing the US as an “essential partner”.

“We co-operate because we need to, because we want to,” she said. “Though it’s true we sometimes have occasional differences of opinion, the US is our friend, our partner.”

The two leaders were about the only ones not in traditional costume: local women donned dirndls, the men bushy hats, moustaches and well-worn lederhosen. The Von Trapp Family singers from nearby Austria sent their apologies.

One local man listed the celebrities who have previously visited Krün, ranging from Elizabeth Taylor to Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader’s ongoing interest in Ukraine has seen him pass out of what used to be the G8.

Another celebrity absentee was U2 frontman and campaigner Bono, though young Irish ambassadors from his One campaign are flying the flag for social justice.

They set up camp 100km north in Munich and, beneath outsized balloons of world leaders’ faces, urged them to deliver more than hot air in 2015 – a crucial year for climate change and global development goals.

“The leaders may be miles away, but we want them to know that we are a voice for people who don’t have voices,” said Sarah Boyle (22) from Carlingford, Co Louth, one of the 250 One ambassadors.

Back in Elmau Castle, dark clouds gathered, literally and figuratively, as leaders’ talks began. After they depart on Monday, the high-security Alpine spectacular continues 50km away. That’s when the secretive Bilderberg group meets across the border in the Austrian Tyrol.