ROAR: “World’s elite club G8 still useful”

Analysts wonder if the time has come for the Group of Twenty countries to replace the Group of Eight.

President Dmitry Medvedev is attending the G8 summit in Huntsville, Canada, on June 25-26. Then he will take part in the G20 summit in Toronto on June 26-27. Observers, meanwhile, are arguing about which organization is more important in solving the world’s pressing problems.

Russia joined meetings of informal group of leaders of Canada, France, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and Italy in 1994 and became the group’s eighth member in 1997.

While many say that the group of twenty industrialized countries may tackle the current economic problems better, some observers say that the G8 format is still useful. It allows the leaders of the eight countries to deal with global political issues and crises, while the G20 is becoming the main global economic forum, they note.

In Canada, the participants of the G8 and G20 summits are gathering together for the first time, Kommersant daily said. “The host country is pinning big hopes on these summits as it hopes to become the informal leader if not of the G8, then of the G20,” the paper assumed.

The decision to schedule the events for the same time was taken in September 2009. “The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper proposed to host both summits, in the hope to increase Ottawa’s political weight in the world affairs,” the daily said.

The economic crisis has affected Canada less than other countries, the daily noted. Now Ottawa is opposing proposals by Germany and France to impose taxes on global bank operations. Russia may support the Canadian prime minister as Moscow considers it “inexpedient to tax bank activities,” the paper said.

However, no hot discussions are expected at the G8 summit this year, the daily noted. Canada is proposing to concentrate on reducing maternal and infant mortality rates in developing countries, fighting international terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation. The leaders of the G8 will hardly have serious disagreements over these issues, the paper opined.

“The commitments that Russia has taken as a G8 member cost its budget around $1.5 billion, according to the Ministry of Finance,” Vedomosti daily said. “It is not a very expensive entrance fee for admission to the world’s elite club.”

The bulk of the sum was spent on preparing military peacekeeping operations (mainly in Africa), fighting drug trafficking and infections, and supporting the agricultural sector and education in the poorest countries, the ministry said in a report published on the eve of the summit.

The paper quoted Andrey Bokarev, director of the ministry’s department of international finances, as saying: “It is necessary to show society that the G8 is an organization which does something, not just discuss something.”

Russia’s assistance to other countries within the framework of the G8 for the most part goes to the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). By helping them, Moscow prevents the emergence of the same problems on its own territory, Bokarev explained.

Although Russia spends less than other members of the G8, the report does not takes into account the debts of several developing countries that Moscow has already written off, the paper noted.

“If Russia wants to consider itself a member of the world’s elite, it has to spend money on commitments within the G8,” believes Fedor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine. “The G8 is more important for Russia than the G20,” he told the paper. “The Group of Eight does not include China, and Russia represents the interests of the whole non-Western world.”

The leaders of the eight countries will discuss a lot of issues in Huntsville, but only political ones will be on the agenda, the government’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper said. Global economic problems will be discussed at the G20 summit in Toronto.

Explaining in the paper “the change of formats”, observer Vitaly Dymarsky recalls that the first club of heads of industrialized states – the G6 – emerged as a response to the economic problems of the late 1970s. And some years ago, analysts started to speak about the decline of the G8.

Several countries that have been gaining economic weight wanted to raise their status. “In any case, the influence of China, India or Brazil on economic conjuncture was no less than that of Italy or Canada,” the observer said.

Critics continue to cite the uncertain status of the Group of Eight and doubt the effectiveness and legitimacy of the decisions taken at its summits, Dymarsky said. Anti-globalists go further, staging mass protests in the places where the summits are held.

In fact, the place of the G8 has not been fixed in international politics, and the organization does not have a charter, headquarters or secretariat, the observer said. “So, on the one hand, it has difficulties while making decisions, on the other, it is unable to control their implementation,” he added.

The interests of eight countries within the group differ on many issues, the observer said. Yet even where the countries seem to have a mutual interest, “there are no effective mechanisms to turn the speeches voiced at the summits into real deeds,” Dymarsky noted. “It is unclear what effect all these conventions, plans and joint statements will have,” he added.

Meanwhile, the G8 summits remain an instrument of certain coordination, “replacing all less effective formal structures of intergovernmental communication such as the UN, the CIS, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” the analyst said. “The longer the empty conversations about reforming these institutions are, which are not supported by real steps, the more indispensable the meetings held in the club format will be.”

The Group of Twenty has the same pluses and minuses, he believes. “We complained about a one-polar world for a long time,” he said. “We have almost achieved what we wanted, and both the G8 and G20 in their present form evidence the emergence of the early stages of the longed-for multi-polar world.”

“But neither the G8 or the G20, nor the UN with its Security Council or other international institutions and gatherings – political, economic or military – are able to secure the adoption and implementation of well-grounded, legitimate, and, mainly, mutually acceptable decisions,” he said.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT