Virtual G7 meeting: taking shared responsibility in the crisis
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in conversation with journalists following a video conference of the G7 Foreign Ministers. Berlin, 25 March 2020, © Thomas Koehler/photothek.de
This year’s G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting took place virtually owing to the coronavirus crisis. The Foreign Ministers discussed the scope for taking joint and coordinated action in this crisis. Future crises were also on the agenda of the major economic and industrial countries.
At the invitation of the US, the Foreign Ministers held discussions via conference call from Washington, DC, Ottawa, Tokyo, Paris, London, Rome, Brussels and Berlin. While a curfew is in force in a number of the capitals, the governments are working together to slow down the spread of the virus. In addition to the immediate health-related consequences, the impact outside the G7 must also be kept in mind.
Foreign Minister Maas stated the following:
The national efforts now required of us all must not give way to a spiral of national egoisms. For the Federal Government, the priority is therefore to coordinate our actions with partners worldwide and to show solidarity wherever we are able to do so.
Along with his UK counterpart Dominic Raab, Maas presented proposals on how the G7 can support crisis management. Together, the Foreign Ministers identified key areas for tackling the immediate health-related consequences of the coronavirus as effectively as possible. All efforts should continue to be focused on curbing the spread of the virus. International cooperation in the development and provision of drugs, treatment methods and vaccines should now be strengthened in order to chart a pathway out of the crisis.
Showing solidarity, upholding rules
The disparity in healthcare provision between OECD states and other countries around the world is in some cases drastic. The G7 must show solidarity above all with those countries that are even less prepared for the fight against the virus. At the same time, the G7, as large, efficient and highly interconnected economies, had a special role to play in dealing with the immediate economic fallout, said Foreign Minister Maas:
We need to take into account the dramatic economic consequences of the pandemic – particularly for global production and supply chains and therefore supplies of goods for us all – and come up with a common international response to protecting rules-based world trade.
However, the Foreign Ministers also agreed that there was a need to take action with respect to preparedness after the crisis and that early warning systems and mechanisms for crisis-prone developments would have to be adapted as a result of the pandemic. Particular attention will be paid in this regard to fragile states and how to support them at an early stage in the event of a crisis in order to help stabilise the situation. A coordinated response on the part of the conference participants will now be elaborated on the basis of the proposals made in the G7 by Germany and the UK.
Future crises: responses to armed conflicts worldwide
The Foreign Ministers discussed the many other trouble spots that the world has been grappling with since long before the coronavirus crisis. The focus was on the catastrophic situation in Syria, where providing humanitarian assistance was the order of the day, said Foreign Minister Maas. Germany was therefore supporting the suffering population this year to the tune of 300 million euros plus 25 million euros for providing shelter for refugees in Idlib, he stated. This, however, was accompanied by a clear call for the actors on the ground to safeguard cross-border humanitarian corridors to this end.
Another key focus was on how the decisions reached at the Libya Conference in Berlin can now be put into practice. Foreign Minister Maas talked about how the humanitarian ceasefire, on which the two parties to the conflict had only recently agreed, was grounds to be cautiously optimistic that the steps towards a lasting ceasefire could now be taken. This showed that joint diplomatic action was yielding results, he added.
As in Libya, joint efforts throughout the Sahel region remained a key priority of the G7 countries. Only dovetailing civilian, military and development policy approaches could have a long-term impact and contribute to stabilisation, he added. Germany would continue to play a major role in this context, said Maas.
The G7 Foreign Ministers also expressed concern about the ongoing domestic crisis in Afghanistan. They were of the view that progress towards a political solution in the form of an intra-Afghan peace process would only be possible if Afghanistan had an effective and inclusive government. Further troop reductions must therefore continue to be carried out with a sense of proportion, responsibility and caution. Only when accompanied by and linked to political progress could coordinated action among NATO allies yield the desired success.