One of the questions most often heard in relation to global governance institutions (such as the UN, G20, G8) is the following: how relevant still is today the Group of 8 most industrialized states? The question is the consequence of the huge changes registered within the international system in the last two decades, especially since the end of the Cold War. These geopolitical and economic shifts have revealed the decline of the West’s influence in global affairs – and the G8 is an expression of such supremacy within global affairs – and the entry of new powers at the top of global ranks, that of China first of all but also India, Brazil, that are not the members of this group. The question is legitimate from the point of view of the states’ representativeness in a global governance forum, because the life of systemic institutions has to reflect the great changes registered on the international arena in order to fulfill the purpose of their existence.
In the case of G8, which dates back to almost half a century ago, the institution, which initially was a summit of finance representatives, has been faithful to this principle. It integrated Russia in the 1990s, in order to co-opt it within the Western system, and it certainly has the capacity to reinvent itself by transforming itself in line with the reality’s exigencies. As a matter of fact, apart from the leaders of the eight states, two high representatives of the EU also took part in the current summit, naturally with a certain mandate, but reflecting the institutional broadening trend. Thus, institutional modifications are ongoing and follow a pre-determined logic or at least that is what can be deduced so far.
But even in the current format, G8 is no less important in the planet’s life. The multilateral force (economic, political, military, cultural etc.) of the member states, their influence in systemic developments, the fact that they periodically generate a global evolution agenda carefully pursued in periodical meetings of G8 leaders, who annually hold the institution’s presidency on a rotational basis, are vectors that realize the considerable significance of the decisions taken.
This year’s summit, which took place on June 17-18 in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland – Great Britain holds the G8 presidency since January 1, 2013 – has revealed this institutional importance, both through the decisions taken and through the fact that the meeting of the leaders also occasioned the outlining of one of the main trends in today’s international life. In what concerns the decisions announced – for instance those concerning the fight against tax evasion at global level or the measures necessary in order to reduce poverty and create new jobs by involving private entrepreneurship, the promotion of good governance as the governments’ responsibility, hiking transparency and free trade as vital instruments in order to attain such new targets – the package announced identifies existing shortcomings in the global governance action. Likewise, on this occasion, the leaders’ bilateral meetings have outlined both points of agreement as well as disagreements between the planet’s big powers.
Among the major points of interest of this summit was the position concerning the negotiations for a transatlantic economic pact. On June 17 American President Barack Obama, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy officially launched the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the first round of negotiations being set to take place on July 8 in Washington. It’s an act with huge consequences for the subsequent evolution of the international system, including for the prosperity of the EU. According to the study authored by a European think tank, this partnership will bring to the EU annual economic gains of EUR 119 bln, representing a supplementary income of EUR 545 per family per year within the EU. But, apart from the economic benefits, one has to mention the political benefits too, a West united in economic partnership being decisive for the outlining of a center of weight in world politics.
One of the dossiers that brought out different approaches from the actors present concerns the civil war in Syria, a war that has so far caused almost 100,000 victims. The B. Obama – V. Putin meeting for instance, a meeting that could have had decisive consequences for a consensus on this dossier, did not take place in joint agreement. The Russian leader was categorically against European powers shipping weapons to the Syrian rebels and announced he will oppose at the UN the establishment of a “no-fly zone” in Syria. At the same time no positive outlook was outlined for the Geneva -2 conference meant to find a peaceful solution to the civil war, Russia hoping that the leader of the current regime in Damascus will attend this conference, something that the partners categorically reject. On the other hand, although the EU has lifted the embargo on the shipment of weapons to the insurgents in Syria, it hesitates to do this since it lacks the certainty of a post-Assad government capable of keeping Syria united and moreover of avoiding the coming to power of a radical islamist regime, which would lead to the rapid dismemberment of this country.
At the same time, the US has a difficult-to-decipher attitude in what concerns its future actions. While the Obama administration recently announced the shipment of minor lethal military equipment, the setting up of a no-fly zone is unlikely, and a wide-scale invasion of this country is ruled out, considering also the Pentagon’s opposition, which needs an exit strategy (in other words, the exact definition of the military action’s political goals).
Both France and Great Britain were the partisans of a wider openness towards the Syrian opposition, but in the face of Russian opposition and American ambiguity they had to back down. British Premier Cameron even launched the idea of a statement of support for the Syrian opposition without Russia’s signature, but gave up on it after the final meeting behind closed doors. The French President nevertheless has left open the possibility of a unilateral action when stating, after his bilateral meeting with Putin: “How can you allow Russia to continue to send weapons to the regime of Bashar al-Assad while the opposition gets so few weapons?”; “How can we accept the fact that we have proof of the use of chemical weapons without a unanimous condemnation by the international community, and that includes the G8?”. It remains to be seen whether these questions were exclusively rhetorical.
So, this year’s G8 summit has shown that institutions of this type are necessary for global governance, because without high level meetings where consensus should be reached on stringent issues for the system the latter’s functioning would be seriously put in question. Not just from an economic point of view but also political and military. Expanding the G8 in order to put it in agreement with the recent developments in the global top 10 places of great economic powers (where China, Brazil or South Korea are) would give new global good governance scopes to this institution.