G8 — The Group of Eight
Who are the G8?
The G8 family photo at the Lough Erne Summit
The Group of Eight (G8) comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America; the European Union is also represented. The Presidency rotates annually among the members of the group, with the United Kingdom assuming the post in January 2013.
The most visible part of the G8 process 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 the launchpad for joint G8 initiatives.
The 2013 Summit at Lough Erne
The most recent G8 Summit was held at Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, on 17 and 18 June. Germany was represented by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. One important topic was tax systems, with the G8 agreeing to share data and information to combat tax evasion. Multinationals will in future have to inform fiscal authorities in what countries their profits are gained and their taxes paid. Developing countries are to receive help collecting the taxes owed to them.
Another of the many other topics discussed was the violent conflict in Syria. The G8 agreed to provide another 1.5 billion US dollars between them for humanitarian activities in Syria and neighbouring countries. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged 200 million euros in assistance on behalf of Germany. The G8 also called for a political solution to the Syrian conflict. A second international Syria conference is to be convened in Geneva as soon as possible. It is apparently to examine the possibility of “a transitional government with full executive powers” for the country.
G8 discussions at Camp David in the United States
The 2012 Summit at Camp David in the US (18-19 May) focused on the debt crisis in the euro area. The G8 agreed to boost productivity, growth and demand in their national economies while at the same time pursuing policies of fiscal consolidation.
The previous year’s Summit was hosted by France and took place in Deauville on 26-27 May 2011. It saw the creation of what has become known as the Deauville Partnership, drafted as support for the reform processes in North Africa. The G8 countries are assisting the states of that region as they consolidate democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, undertake economic and social reforms, and foster civil society.
G8 meetings at ministerial level too
Ashton, Kerry and Westerwelle (right to left)
© Photothek / Imo
The G8 foreign ministers also meet on a regular basis to discuss foreign policy issues. Other ministers, such as those responsible for the environment or development, also meet in the G8 format. The foreign ministers’ latest meeting was chaired by the UK, 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 organized 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 organized 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.
Last updated 19.06.2013