by Xinhua writer He Mengshu
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States, will be gathering at Schloss Elmau in the German state of Bavaria on June 7 and 8.
What is to expect from the upcoming meeting? What are the main topics on its agenda? Here is a preview of this year’s summit of the world’s leading economies.
WIDE RANGE OF TOPICS
Germany currently holds the Presidency of the G7. Besides traditional economic, foreign and security topics, the agenda of the Elmau summit will also focus on global environment and health issues.
Writing in a guest article for the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the role of the G7 group, saying it can and must become the “engine of a world worth living in”.
“Whoever doubts the sense of the (group’s) summits only needs to look at the current crises to recognize not just the necessity, but the duty to work intensively on common solutions,” said Merkel.
Referencing the Ukraine crisis, the rise of the Islamic State and the spread of Ebola epidemic, topics expected to be discussed at the summit, the chancellor said the world still faces challenges which need international responses.
Another point on the G7 agenda are world economy and trade, focusing on issues like regulation and supervision of financial markets, combat against tax avoidance and evasion, as well as bilateral free trade agreements, in particular the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and the United States.
Merkel went on to say that the Elmau summit would also look at two major tasks confronting the international community this year.
“The first is to set out new targets for sustainable development. The G7 should commit itself to wiping out hunger and absolute poverty by 2030 … The second global task is climate protection. With the conference in Paris in December, we have the first chance in years to reach an agreement on emissions to which all nations are bound. Through this, we can come a bit closer to ensuring that we keep global temperature rises under two degrees,” she wrote.
In addition, retail and supply chain standards, female self-employment, protection of the marine environment as well as tropical diseases and antimicrobial resistance are also put on the agenda by the German G7 Presidency.
RETURN OF RUSSIA TO THE GROUP?
The G7 ( formerly G8) is an informal forum for major industrialized nations to discuss global issues. It was originally formed by six leading economies and subsequently extended with two additional members, Canada and Russia.
Russia was booted out of the G8 over the Ukrainian crisis last year as the other seven members decided not to attend a G8 summit planned in Russia’s Sochi.
Speaking about Russia’s membership in the G8 and its ties with the West, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said “we couldn’t simply return to business as usual” in the light of the Ukraine conflict, but stressed at the same time that the G7’s aim “is still to return to being the G8.”
“There can be no interest on our part in the G8 remaining the G7 in the long term. On the contrary, we urgently need Russia to help resolve entrenched conflicts in our European neighborhood, such as those plaguing Syria, Iraq and Libya, as well as Iran’s nuclear program,” he added.
In an interview with Xinhua, Wang Yizhou, Deputy Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said relations with Russia and the Ukraine conflict would be one of the major issues discussed by western countries during the upcoming G7 meeting.
With respect to Russia’s membership, Wang expressed doubts over a future return of Russia to the G7.
Ruan Zongze, Vice President of China Institute of International Studies , expressed similar opinion to Xinhua, saying Russia doesn’t believe in a real “integration” into the West following the decision of western countries to suspend Russia’s membership in the G8.
Both experts also mentioned the greater role that other formats, including the G20, are currently playing in global affairs.
“The G7 group is seeing a shrinking value today. Russia will pay more attention to the role of the G20, the BRICS ,the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, etc.,” said Ruan.
G7 FACES CRITICISM, PROTESTS
The G7 has been facing a lot of criticism. Opponents say world leaders have repeatedly failed to take decisive actions on the most pressing global issues. The group is also accused of being “a self-interested group for the elite” and lacking of transparency.
Anti-G7 demonstrations are planned during this year’s summit. Thousands of protesters have already taken to the streets in Bavaria ahead of the meeting.
A main protest took place Thursday in Munich, the Bavarian capital. Environmentalists, globalization opponents and other protesters issued demands on issues from international trade agreements, poverty reduction to climate change and migration.
According to the local police, about 34,000 people have taken part in the peaceful demonstration, and 3,000 police officers were in operation and accompanied the protesters along the way.
Thursday’s rally is followed by the first major demonstration march of the protester alliance “Stop G7 Elmau” on Friday in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, about 10 km away from the meeting venue of the summit.
“The representatives of the richest and most powerful countries in the world lay claim to decide the fate of the entire world, without having any legitimization for this,” the protester group wrote on its website.
Besides, protests are also announced for June 7-8 in and around Garmisch-Partenkirchen. About 600 activists have set up camps nearby.
To ensure the safety of the leaders, some 17,000 police officers will be on duty in Bavaria during the summit. Germany has also instituted temporary border checks through mid-June with its neighbors in the Schengen area of visa-free travel. Enditem