During its presidency of the group Germany plans to focus on major issues, with climate policy as the top priority. Dealing with the COVID pandemic and with Russia and China will definitely also end up on the G7 agenda. Sabine Kinkartz reports
Just before Christmas, German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit unveiled the new G7 2022 logo: a white G and 7 placed so they merge into one simple shape on a dark blue backdrop. “G7 Germany 2022” is written underneath. That’s it. “This design with its focus on the essentials is intended to represent the focused work program we have set ourselves for this presidency,” Hebestreit said.
The G7, or “Group of Seven,” consists of the US, Canada, Japan, France, the UK, Italy and Germany. When these countries came together in the 1970s, they were the seven strongest industrialized nations in the world, and the economy was the dominant topic. Today, the G7 deals with major international issues that require a multilateral approach.
Germany takes over from UK
Much of what was discussed and negotiated under the United Kingdom’s G7 presidency in 2021 will have to be continued from January when Germany takes over. Above all, the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which after two years shows no sign of abating, remains a major concern. The G7 health ministers last met at the end of November. At their summit in London in June, the G7 leaders agreed to distribute 2.3 billion vaccine doses to developing countries by the end of 2022. Germany is the second-largest donor in the COVAX vaccination alliance.
Climate policy is to be a central topic of the German G7 presidency. At the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Liverpool in December, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Green Party) stressed that the climate crisis has implications for peace and security, not only for Europe but especially for the emerging and developing countries.
“We can be under the illusion that the West is an island, but even here the water will continue to rise inexorably if we do not act now,” Baerbock said. “That’s why we will make pulling together on the climate crisis one of the priorities of our G7 chairmanship next year.”
Without China, however, the G7 will not be able to put the brakes on global warming. “China is a partner for us, for the G7,” the German foreign minister said, referring to more than just climate protection. “Many global problems, we can only solve together.” How to deal with the authoritarian regime in Beijing, however, is an extremely controversial issue within the G7. And US President Joe Biden has urged a tougher stance.
China is certainly a competitor and “in many ways also a systemic rival,” said Foreign Minister Baerbock, but: “Cooperation is the top priority in diplomacy, but it must be on the basis of human rights and in compliance with international treaties.” This “foreign policy dilemma” can not be ignored, she said.
The special role of the US
“We must adapt our approach to China to the realities,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in mid-December during his first speech in parliament as the head of the new government . The “critical human rights situation” and “violations of universal standards” must not be ignored. “That doesn’t change the fact that a country of China’s size and history has a central place in the international concert of nations.”
During Germany’s G7 presidency, it will become clear that the new German government wants to shape its foreign policy much more than before through “constructive dialogue.”
The German government sees the US as playing a pivotal role.
“I stand united with US President Joe Biden in the conviction that the world’s liberal democracies must prove that they can provide the better, the fairer, and the more equitable answers to the challenges of the 21st century,” Scholz said. He promised that the German government would always stand up for multilateral cooperation and international institutions.
As to Russia, the G7 has threatened “massive consequences” in the event of an attack on Ukraine. This refers primarily to punitive economic measures. “Any violation of territorial integrity will have a high price, and we will stand together with our European partners and our transatlantic allies and speak with one voice,” Chancellor Scholz said in parliament, repeating a statement made by his predecessor in office, Angela Merkel.
At the same time, Scholz wants to continue to press for negotiations. Against the backdrop of its history in two world wars, he said, Germany must be “prepared to attempt more and more often to reach an understanding, to break out of the spiral of escalation.”
A summit in the Bavarian Alps
The highlight of the German G7 presidency will be the summit of heads of state and government from June 26 to 28 at Elmau Castle in the scenic setting of the Bavarian Alps. The small town in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen was already the summit venue in 2015.
“Of course, we also know that there will again be a lot of work for us, the police, the rescue forces, and everyone involved,” the mayor of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Thomas Schwarzenberger, told Bavarian radio. “The preparations will make the next six months very exhausting and very demanding.”
Elmau Castle meets all the logistical and security requirements of a G7 summit venue, according to the German government. It is a five-star luxury resort with large suites for the heads of state and government and is located in a mountain valley in the forest in terrain that is difficult to access. In 2015, the roads all around were upgraded for police vehicles and are equipped with an airfield and helipad.
Bavaria’s state Interior Ministry estimates that the summit will cost around €166 million ($188 million). Ninety percent of that has been budgeted for security and includes miles of high-security fencing and a satellite-based communications system. In 2015, 20,000 police officers from all over Germany were deployed to turn the conference venue into a fortress. This year will not be much different.
This article was translated from German.