The G7 Family photo at the Brussels summit
© dpa/picture alliance
The Group of Eight, or G8, comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the United States. The EU is also represented. The cancellation of the Sochi Summit resulted in Russia’s G8 presidency being suspended.
In view of the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity perpetrated by the Russian Federation, the G7 – i.e. the G8 minus Russia – decided on 24 March 2014 not to attend the planned G8 summit to be chaired by Russia in Sochi. The G7 had already halted all preparations for the Sochi Summit on 2 March. This year’s meeting instead took the form of a G7 summit in Brussels on 4 and 5 June. Germany has held the G7 presidency since then.
The G8 is founded on shared principles and values. Russia’s exclusion will remain in place until circumstances have been established in which meaningful discussions can again be held in the G8 context.
Who are the G7/G8?
The Group of Eight, or G8, comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the United States. The EU is also represented. The members take it in turns to chair the group, rotating annually.
The Russian Federation assumed the G8 presidency in January 2014. The cancellation of the Sochi Summit resulted in Russia’s G8 presidency being suspended. Germany, which was due to take over the presidency in 2015, did so early following the G7 summit in Brussels.
The most visible element of summit activities is the annual summit, to which the heads of state and government are invited by the country holding the presidency usually around halfway through the year. The summits give the heads of state and government an opportunity to exchange views face to face. They also serve as a launchpad for joint initiatives. The summit under Germany’s presidency will be held at Schloss Elmau on 7 and 8 June 2015.
The G7 summit in Brussels
The most recent G7 summit took place in Brussels on 4 and 5 June 2014 (while the latest G8 summit was held at Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, on 17 and 18 June 2013). Next to current political crises, the agenda was dominated by energy security, climate change, development issues and the condition of the global economy. Germany had deliberately sought to have a broad range of focuses at the summit and successfully advocated that development and climate issues be discussed. The G7 reaffirmed the pledges made at previous summits and launched an initiative to support developing countries in concluding complex raw materials agreements (CONNEX).
Following previous stints in 1999 and 2007, Germany had actually been meant to take over the G8 presidency once again on 1 January 2015. This was brought forward, with Germany assuming the G7 presidency after the Brussels Summit.
G8 meetings at ministerial level too
The G8 foreign ministers also meet on a regular basis to discuss foreign policy issues. The Moscow meeting of G8 foreign ministers planned for late April 2014 has been cancelled due to the current political climate. On 24 March, the G7 heads of state and government tasked their energy ministers with discussing how to boost collective energy security.
The foreign ministers’ latest G8 meeting was chaired by the UK and held in London on 10 and 11 April 2013. Its main focuses were the situation in Syria, the tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the ongoing conflict surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme.
How does the G8 process work?
The G8 process is more than just a series of summit meetings. Over the years a fully‑fledged programme of political coordination has grown up around this annual event. The topics for the Summit and the ministerial meetings are prepared by high‑level staff of the heads of state and government and the ministers, known in G8 jargon as “sherpas” and “sous‑sherpas”. They meet several times a year.
The G8 themes: Africa, non‑proliferation, and the fight against terrorism and organised crime
The implementation of the G8 Africa Action Plan, drafted with considerable input from the Federal Foreign Office, is the responsibility of the Chancellor’s G8 Personal Representative for Africa, who is from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The G8 mandates groups of experts on an ad‑hoc basis to research individual topics, such as the non‑proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the international fight against organised crime and terrorism. The recommendations produced are discussed at the G8 Summits by the heads of state and government and are included in the Summit conclusions.
Although the G8 continues to be an informal forum for coordinating policy, the decisions made by the Group have a binding effect politically and are presented to other multilateral bodies jointly by the G8.
More documentation is available from the University of Toronto’s G8 Information Centre:
Last updated 31.07.2014