A G7 summit in Brussels to impose sanctions on Russia
While it is possible to exclude Russia from the G7, progress cannot be made without Russia in certain areas that currently hold sway over global security.
The last G8 summit was held in June 2013. The final communiqué ended with the phrase: “We look forward to meeting under the Presidency of Russia in Sochi on 4-5 June 2014.” In the meantime the Ukraine crisis arose and this meeting was cancelled as a sanction against Russia by the seven other nations (United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy). Once again designated G7, the latter nations preferred to meet in Brussels, for the first time in G7 history. The representatives of the European Union have always attended this annual meeting, but only as invited delegates and without the right to chair the G7.
The exclusion of Russia gave rise to a de facto Co-Presidency for the Summit between Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy. The two had proposed to the other participants that the dinner on 4 June should be devoted to international politics, with priority given to an exchange on Ukraine. The two working sessions on 5 June dealt with the economy and world trade, as well as climate change and energy. The agenda for the closing dinner included the question of development in Africa.
The fact that the heads of seven democratic countries, which make up the world’s largest economies, organised their work in this way was testimony to something that we tend to forget: without peace, without the determination to participate actively in the resolution of conflicts in the world, any efforts to preserve prosperity and to promote sustainable development will be in vain. It was therefore vital for the G7 to reiterate its support for the new President of Ukraine and to protest firmly against the Russian Federation’s violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. However, on reading the Brussels G7 Summit Declaration, it soon becomes evident that while it was possible to exclude Russia and not to hold the Summit in Sochi, without Russia it would be impossible to make progress in certain areas that currently hold sway over global security.
For example, it is hard to imagine how a national dialogue can be established in Syria to put an end to the civil war that has already cost 160,000 lives while Assad’s regime enjoys the barely-concealed support of Russia. To give a further example, how can a diplomatic solution be found to the issue of nuclear developments in Iran? Russia is officially a member of the E3 + 3, a grouping in which the three European nations, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, together with China, the United States and Russia, negotiate with the Iranian government on its nuclear programme. In short, we should not lose sight of the need to re-establish a partnership with Russia in the long term in order to put an end to these conflicts.
This is also true of the energy-related issues raised at the Summit. It is certainly wise to draw up emergency plans in case the conflict with Russia leads to an energy crisis in Europe during the winter of 2014/2015, but in the longer term Russian gas will remain indispensable for Europe. Ultimately, the G7 countries will have to come to an agreement with Russia within the scope of the G20. The next Summit of the latter organisation will be held in November in Brisbane, Australia, and it is expected that work will continue on reforming the financial markets and on the problem of tax evasion. Here, too, it is hard to envisage how this can be done without cooperation with the Russian Federation.
In short, the G7 Summit in Brussels showed it was on the brink of returning to the old way of operating. It certainly resulted in some very positive areas of progress, such as all the participants, including the United States, committing to agree to an ambitious global accord ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2015 in Paris. Similarly, we should be very happy with some passages concerning development in the final declaration, and also with the undertaking to improve transparency in the extractive industries.
Finally, the reiteration of the values and responsibilities shared by the major democratic nations at the start of the final declaration, and the defence of human rights, including freedom of religion, at the end, should also be highlighted. It goes without saying that we have to hope before long either for Russia to return to the fold of a reconstituted G8, or for another formula that will enable this world power to be included in constructive dialogue. This will be the most important task facing Germany in its year of G7 presidency in 2015.
Translated from the original text in French