G7 summit to discuss wars, jihadists, Grexit fears
BERLIN, Germany – The Bavarian Alps venue may look tranquil, but global turmoil – from Ukraine to Islamist militants and the Greek crisis – dominates the agenda of the G7 summit, which is being held without Russia.
From Sunday, June 7, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts US President Barack Obama and the other leaders of the Group of Seven rich nations, with Russian President Vladimir Putin barred for a third time from what was previously the G8.
The leaders of the top industrialized democracies, who will meet for two days at the tightly guarded Elmau Castle retreat, argue that Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea last year has, at least temporarily, disqualified it from the group.
"Common values and views on democracy are what symbolize the G7," Merkel said Thursday about the scaled-down grouping.
Kicking off events early on Sunday, Merkel will treat Obama to some traditional Bavarian hospitality.
Together they will visit a beer garden-style event in the nearby village of Kruen, population 1,900, and meet locals over frothy stone mug beers, pretzels and oompah brass music, with views of the majestic Wetterstein Mountain.
Then it'll be down to business as the G7 leaders arrive from 1100 GMT, including Britain's David Cameron, Canada's Stephen Harper, France's Francois Hollande, Italy's Matteo Renzi and Japan's Shinzo Abe.
Merkel – the group's veteran after nearly a decade in office – has repeatedly urged Putin to end Ukraine's separatist conflict so he can return to the club and help deal with other pressing global challenges on the G7 agenda, from climate change to security threats.
Weighing heavily on the leaders' minds as they discuss the world economy will be the looming threat of crisis-hit Greece crashing out of the eurozone if it fails to resolve a reforms-for-cash dispute with its creditors.
"It would be astonishing... if the topic of Greece were not discussed," said a German government source, who stressed however that crucial decisions "cannot be made at Elmau and are not expected".
To discuss Greece and other issues of global significance, the G7 has also invited the heads of multilateral bodies such as the United Nations, IMF, World Bank and WTO, as well as the chief of the EU executive, Jean-Claude Juncker.
Global power players
To shield this who's who of global power players from security threats and mass protests, Germany has mobilized a reported 25,000 police and thrown a tight security cordon around the venue, including helicopters with thermal cameras to check forests for intruders.
As they meet informally for two days, the world's political heavyweights "will face an exceptionally broad and demanding agenda," wrote John Kirton, director of think-tank the G7 Research Group.
"It begins with the political security crisis in Ukraine, the new terrorist shock from ISIS (Islamic State) in the Middle East, and ongoing terrorist threats in Mali, Kenya and elsewhere."
Also on the agenda will be long-running issues such as Iran's nuclear program, the stalled Middle East peace process, and maritime disputes between China and its neighbours, according to Kirton.
The traditional focus of the G7, which has its roots in the mid-1970s oil crisis, has been foreign, security and economic policy, but Merkel has added a host of development, social and environmental issues, from women's rights to Ebola.
With Paris due to host a UN climate summit late this year, Merkel – whose country is seeking a shift from nuclear power and fossil fuels to renewable energy – has vowed the summit will show that "the G7 states are willing to take a leading role in fostering low-carbon development".
The G7, derided by protesters as a group of former colonial powers, will also reach out to African leaders and hold talks with Nigeria's new president, Muhammadu Buhari, Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the leaders of Tunisia and the African Union.
Together with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi they plan to discuss Islamist militants, such as Nigeria's Boko Haram, and rapidly growing refugee flows across the Mediterranean, a pressing issue for the EU.
Other topics Merkel has tabled under the motto "Think ahead, act together" range from improving labour rights for textile workers to fighting antibiotics resistance and cleaning up oceanic pollution. – Frank Zeller, AFP/Rappler.com