G8 helps Europe and Africa once again

When evaluating the results of meetings like the recent G8 summit at Camp David, you have to consider differences of perspective.

When evaluating the results of meetings like the recent G8 summit at Camp David, you have to consider differences of perspective. A neutral view of the summit suggests that it helped Germany and Europe as a whole (in the form of advice). But the numerous African leaders invited to the summit probably focus on how this discussion club of world leaders has helped Africa, and not for the first time.

Growth vs. austerity

Of course, Europe is more important. A change in the mentality of even some world leaders on serious issues related to global economic management is very significant.

Regarding the crisis in the European Union and the Eurozone, the G8 by and large believed the spenders (like Greece) can only qualify for financial assistance if they slash spending. And since this money was supposed to come primarily from Germany, its Chancellor Angela Merkel was bound to play a special role in Camp David.

However, in the last few months there has been a growing chorus in the EU expressing a different concern: austerity, they argue, has hampered economic growth, and if GDP declines, how can countries meet their debt obligations?

The election of President Francois Hollande in France (also a guest at Camp David) this month signaled the changing mood in Europe. He is against the nickel-and-dime policy and the former French-German agreement on Europe’s budget pact. Voters all over Europe are not enthusiastic about austerity. The United States and Russia also prefer pro-growth policies. It is necessary to find another solution.

Frankly, the summit was a protracted battle with Merkel, whose austerity plan fell through. Other participants tried to convert her to a different economic faith and almost succeeded in doing so. They prepared documents for signing on other items of the agenda (Iran, Syria, etc) that required brief discussions.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev summed up in detail the results of the summit. Europe will be saved; Greece was the main character of the summit, and the majority wants it to remain in the Eurozone; the economic mentality switched from a fixation on financial discipline to a combination of discipline and economic growth. It’s not that Hollande won a victory over Markel, but he did score a number of big points.

As always, the details and nuances are particularly interesting. Here’s a question – if austerity is given up, what will take its place? The Washington Post highlighted one idea expressed in the summit’s final communique – money must be invested in education and the infrastructure. This is the way to ensure growth.

As for Africa, G8 has long been an international charity organization. This time nobody pledged any money, but the Africans were given good advice – they should also invest in education and the infrastructure to ensure growth.

Why destroy something that may be helpful?

In the last few years, it’s been more interesting to debate not what G8 summits accomplish but the point of having G8 at all. Its current intellectual achievements could be reflected at the annual economic forum in Davos and expressed more formally at the much more important meeting of the G20 in Los Cabos, Mexico. If eight of the 20 leaders want to meet in Los Cabos a day before the G20 summit, they could well do this and make the same decisions. It could even be just three or four.

On the eve of the Camp David summit, one Washington Post columnist noted just a few reasons why the G8 is such a mess: the “special” role of some European nations, which calls into question the purpose of the EU; Russia should not have been admitted to the G8 – it was too much of an honor; and, strangely enough, that G8 is emphasizing the gap between the elites and the masses, an issue I believe will be one of the biggest problems of this millennium. This is just a handful of the group’s problems.

The G8 was established as a club for the world’s leaders. This is no longer the case. Now G20 represents the full list of global leaders, while the G8 has become an anachronism that is going all-out to do something useful for fear that otherwise it will disband.

Even the Wikipedia article on the G8 discusses the debate over the group’s value.

The history of the G8’s convulsions is telling. A few years ago the club started inviting essential countries to their meetings – China (the world’s second largest economy and second most important country in terms of a number of factors), as well as Brazil and India (whose economies are bigger than those of G8 members such as Italy, Canada or the United Kingdom). But this tradition vanished with the outbreak of the global financial and economic crisis and the formation of the G20 in 2008. China quietly but firmly made it clear that it no longer wished to take part in the G8 in any capacity. At that point, everyone understood that the G8 was no longer the same and that something had to be done about it.

Incidentally, Russia, which has the best economic prospects for this year, did not follow China’s lead. As for the reasons for President Vladimir Putin’s “failure” to attend the Camp David summit this year, they have been covered thoroughly enough.

However, considering the Chinese precedent, this thought will continue to linger in the background.

Nicholas Sarkozy, the 37th G8 chair in 2011, promised to breathe new life into the run-down club. He did not keep this promise but still managed to save the club from collapse. Now everyone is used to the idea that G8 members can meet simply by tradition, without claiming the role of global Politburo.

Why destroy something that may be helpful? Do the United States and Europe have to discuss ideological and economic differences at this time? A G8 summit is a place to have such debates without the need to make any decisions. Do the “old” powers have to meet with the “young” ones? Russia is both a member of G8 and BRICS, a similar club. Its role as a link could prove useful. We will have to wait and see.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. 

To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала