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Impressions of the G8 Evian Summit

Victoria Panova, Moscow State University for International Relations
Draft of June 3, 2003

The G8 summit organised by the French hosts was rather productive although contradictory. With a remote resortsuch as Evian chosen as the site for the high-level meeting and tight security, everything seemed peaceful and pleasant, but once you crossed the lake and got into Switzerland one could see different picture with violation and destruction dominating the area.

The French, claiming that they would like to preserve Canada's 2002 Kananaskis model of summitry, showed something strikingly different, common in some ways and often varying in others.

Like Kananaskis, Evian-les-Bains is a small resort in the Haute-Savoie department of France, chosen because few roads lead to it, making the site easy to protect. Many security forces were deployed in the area, with strict controls in place.

But essentially it was a different summit format, for the number of leaders of developing countries was unprecedented, a choice of the French presidency. Attending the Summit were the leaders of Algeria, Brazil, China (which permitted the new Chinese President an "introduction" to the world), Egypt, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and South Africa, as well as the President of the Swiss Confederation and representatives from such international organisations as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. The first day, despite the fears of some, was quite productive. For the first time in history, the leaders had the opportunity to discuss the problems of developing countries with the G8 heads hearing and seeing the "guests," thu bringing new interesting possibilities to the table. And again, unlike the criticisms of some, that first day did not exhaust the G8 leaders, and they were able to continue working, coming up with ideas and initiatives in the following days of the "proper" G8, when they produced a huge number of declarations and plans the next day.

Although the summit agenda was diffuse, the leaders still managed to achieve very high grades, in-depth and concrete commitments at least on some of those documents. The overall number of commitments in the 14 final documents reached the number of 207, surpassing every previous summit, although not necessarily in terms of quality.

Strange as it may sound, for a number of years the G7/8, initially created to deal with economic and monetary issues, almost dropped thm from its agenda. This year, this topical area was revived, and the new launch was quite successful, receiving an average of A- for Economics (G8 Research Group, Assessment Scores for Evian Summit June 3, 2003). However, no progress was made on agricultural trade, and the issue of access to generic medicines seems not to be solved either.

A good deal of attention was paid to the field of security, as was predicted. Significant progress was made in the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and the leaders appeared motivated to continue the war against terrorism. One subject that provoked much discussion was another security issue — the problem of North Korea — which earned a strong message from the leaders.

The leaders nonetheless managed not to go far on the issue of Iraq, perhaps to avoid destroying a fragile consensus, most likely just temporary, among the recently divided leaders.

The other domain under discussion lay within North-South relations. Considering the Summit's format, it was no surprise that Africa received a good deal of attention and the leaders did well dealing with it. Thus the Global health Fund was promised an additional US$3 billion, while the real action (money) will be donated only after the follow-up EU summit. Other issue areas, such as providing potable water and struggling with famine, did not receive pledges of money from the leaders, but a published plan of concrete measures to solve these problems can be regarded a success.

As the Russian president Vladimir Putin stressed, the biggest summit success at Evian was the reconciliation among the leaders. He commended U.S. president George Bush for being a wise politician, not to continue the divide and to come to the summit. However, Bush's decision to leave early creates some uncertainty about his real intentions. No one can blame him for this, since the Middle East process is far too important. Thus the rest could just wish him of the best luck.

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