Life hectic at G8 summit, relations tense behind the scenes
Medvedev and Berlusconi   /  Photo:

Life hectic at G8 summit, relations tense behind the scenes

9 Jul, 08:43 PM

Russia President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Italy on Wednesday, July 8, for the L’Aquila Group of Eight summit meeting, the second G8 summit of his career. His plane landed at a military air base outside Rome and he, like the other world leaders, was taken by helicopter to the town of Coppito, on the edge of L’Aquila, and received by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The Italian PM took his visitors on personalized tours of the destruction in the region as soon as they arrived. Medvedev was shown a 14th-century castle. Russia has now promised to restore that castle, Kommersant reports. Although the earthquake damage (and the threat of new quakes) may momentarily dampen spirits, the town has the advantage of being easily isolated from globalization protesters. Three thousand troops are guarding the leaders from terrorists as well.

The leaders – the heads of the G8 countries and European Union president Sweden, plus European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso – got off to a running start with a working lunch, where the resolutions of the last summit, the world economy and global warming were discussed for two hours. After a break for a photo shoot, the taking of the so-called “family photo,” the leaders continued on to a working session devoted to “global issues.”

The leaders’ privacy is rather fiercely guarded at these summits, in spite of emerging unpleasantness over The Financial Times’ report that the Italian delegation used listening devices to overhear their colleagues’ telephone conversations.

As FT noted, there is no recording or note-taking at the meetings, and each leader has only one assistant present, his “sherpa,” who can communicate with the world at large while meetings are in session. According to Interfax, Medvedev’s sherpa is presidential advisor Arkady Dvorkovich. The Russian press has also identified two sous-sherpas, one from the Finance Ministry and one from the Foreign Ministry.

The working dinner was held at 8:30 in the evening. It was devoted to international issues. Immediately following it, Medvedev met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Sherpa Dvorkovich described the closed meetings for Russian broadcaster NTV. “There were practically no arguments at all today [Wednesday],” he reassured the viewers. “The majority of the leaders spoke one at a time twice at the two sessions.” That might be so, but there were obvious disagreements.

Sarkozy praised Medvedev’s “constructive” approach in discussions of the recent violence in Iran, but the resulting statement on Iran (combined with other global issues because Russia opposed issuing a separate Iran statement) was perceived of as weak in the United States.

Russia openly rejected the group’s environmental goals, with Dvorkovich calling an 80-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 “unacceptable and likely unattainable,” and adding bluntly, “We won't sacrifice economic growth for the sake of emission reduction.” Canada later issued a similar statement.

Economic issues look similarly cloudy. Financial sous-sherpa Andrey Bokarev is quoted by AFP as saying that “Some countries believe that it is still premature to speak about any exit strategies whatsoever,” obviously hinting that other countries do not believe that. Bokarev added that Russia’s longtime dream of replacing the dollar with a supranational currency was not discussed. Observers did not expect the topic to be raised. European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet gave the dollar strong backing in an interview on Sunday.

Russian presidential spokeswoman Natalia Timakova told the press that “In the course of the morning session President Medvedev said administrative regulation of oil prices is impossible,” which was a disappointment to Great Britain and France.

As if that were not enough, the second day of the summit saw the arrival of representatives from international organizations and many more countries (for an estimated total of 30, representing about 90 percent of the world’s economy, according to NTV). There was a working session and family photo before the working lunch, then a meeting between the leaders and young people of 14 countries, the Major Economies Forum meetings with World Trade Organization and United Nations officials, and a heavily-attended dinner, again at 8:30.

Amongst the meetings of the day was one between G8 and African leaders, after which Russian foreign policy sous-sherpa Alexander Pankin stated that Russia favored expanding the G8 to a G14 by including the G5 emerging economies (Russia’s fellow BRIC members Brazil, India and China, plus Mexico and South Africa) and another country.

Medvedev met with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and discussed the delicate issue of the Kurile Islands. After the meeting, presidential aide Sergey Prikhodko stated that the leaders agreed to continue consultations.

NTV reports that Medvedev will raise the topic of regional currencies to replace the dollar during the second day. He is also scheduled to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the evening. Deutsche Presse Agentur reports that Medvedev will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany the week following the summit.

On the third day of the summit, there will be a working breakfast with the topic “Impact of the crisis on Africa.” That will be followed by a working session on food security, another photo session and the final press conference at 1:00 in the afternoon.

Tags: G8, Dmitry Medvedev, summit


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