Taormina Summit: What Experience Makes a Host Produce a Successful Summit?
Alessandra Cicci and John Kirton, G7 Research Group
June 9, 2017
The 43rd G7 summit, held in Taormina, Italy, was one of the most challenging summits for the club as the leaders gathered to discuss the world's most pressing issues and possible action the G7 could take. This year's summit in particular was important for Italy as the country has been overwhelmed by the massive influx of migrants, and has suffered from low growth and high youth unemployment. Moreover, it was the first time newly elected Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni has hosted a G7 summit.
Yet, in comparison to past hosts, both first timers and veterans, Gentiloni is unusual in many respects. First, Gentiloni unexpectedly became the leader of Italy a few months before the summit started, after former prime minister Matteo Renzi resigned upon a defeat in a national referendum. Gentiloni also hosted the summit before having secured an electoral mandate of his own, and working off of his predecessor's agenda for the meeting. Second, Gentiloni leads a complex and shaky coalition government that depends on other members for its legislative survival. Third, having served as his country's foreign minister in the past, unlike any U.S. leader, Gentiloni brought to the table previous international experience.
Does this distinctive combination of characteristics mean Gentiloni was more likely to produce a summit of success? Did Gentiloni's unique experience as foreign minister benefit him in his discussions with the other G7 leaders, or did his young government prove to disadvantage him? The three characteristics — whether it was the first summit for the host, whether the host had direct control of the legislature and whether the host had past experience as a foreign minister — did not have a significant effect on summit success. In analyzing the success of past summit hosts, the results show that the three variables may be factors in the number of commitments produced, but do not necessarily on their own cause an increase in the number of commitments made.
Over the previous 42 G7 summits, the highest number of commitments made was from the 2015 Schloss Elmau Summit, with 376 (see appendix). German chancellor Angela Merkel had hosted previous summits, but has never held the position of foreign minister and has never held a majority government. Her 2007 summit also scored second in regards to the number of commitments made.
At Russian president Vladimir Putin's 2006 St. Petersburg Summit, 317 commitments were made, coming in third place. Putin had attended previous summits as a leader, but lacked the experience as a foreign minister and did not hold a majority government.
The summits that produced the lowest number of commitments were mostly earlier ones. The number of commitments remained relatively low until the mid 1990s and early 2000s, with the exception of the Denver Summit in 1997. The 2002 Kananaskis Summit started the trend of a high quantities of commitments. Throughout the 2000s, there were never fewer than 100 commitments, with the exception of the 2010 Muskoka Summit. It is possible that this increase can be attributed to the global impacts of 9/11 and rapid globalization.
What did this mean for Gentiloni at Taormina? Although there may be a correlation among the three variables, it does not necessarily mean that they are causal, and that they lead directly to the success or failure of a summit host. Gentiloni's unique situation may have played a role in the success of the Taormina Summit, but the data do not prove whether the three variables had a significant impact on that result.
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|Summit||Host country||Host leader||First summit||Direct control of legislature||Foreign ministerial service||Number of commitments|
|1975||Rambouillet, France||Valery Giscard d'Estaing||Yes||Yes||No||15|
|1976||San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States||Gerald R. Ford||No||Yes||No||10|
|1977||London, United Kingdom||James Callaghan||No||Yes||Yes||55|
|1978||Bonn, West Germany||Helmut Schmidt||No||No||No||50|
|1979||Tokyo, Japan||Masayoshi Ohira||Yes||No||Yes||34|
|1980||Venice, Italy||Francesco Cossiga||No||No||No||55|
|1981||Ottawa, Canada||Pierre E. Trudeau||No||Yes||No||40|
|1982||Versailles, France||Francois Mitterrand||No||Yes||No||23|
|1983||Williamsburg, United States||Ronald Reagan||No||Yes||No||38|
|1984||London, United Kingdom||Margaret Thatcher||No||Yes||No||31|
|1985||Bonn, West Germany||Helmut Kohl||No||Yes||No||24|
|1986||Tokyo, Japan||Yasuhiro Nakasone||No||Yes||No||39|
|1987||Venice, Italy||Amintore Fanfani||No||No||Yes||53|
|1988||Toronto, Canada||Brian Mulroney||No||Yes||No||27|
|1989||Paris, France||Francois Mitterrand||No||Yes||No||61|
|1990||Houston, United States||George H. W. Bush||No||Yes||No||78|
|1991||London, United Kingdom||John Major||Yes||Yes||Yes||53|
|1992||Munich, Germany||Helmut Kohl||No||No||No||41|
|1993||Tokyo, Japan||Kiichi Miyazawa||No||Yes||Yes||29|
|1994||Naples, Italy||Silvio Berlusconi||Yes||No||No||53|
|1995||Halifax, Canada||Jean Chretien||No||Yes||No||78|
|1996||Lyon, France||Jacques Chirac||No||Yes||No||59|
|1997||Denver, United States||Bill Clinton||No||Yes||No||145|
|1998||Birmingham, United Kingdom||Tony Blair||No||Yes||No||73|
|1999||Koln, Germany||Gerhard Schroder||Yes||No||No||46|
|2000||Okinawa, Japan||Yoshiro Mori||Yes||No||No||105|
|2001||Genoa, Italy||Silvio Berlusconi||No||Yes||No||58|
|2002||Kananaskis, Canada||Jean Chretien||No||Yes||No||187|
|2003||Evian-les-Bains, France||Jacques Chirac||No||Yes||No||206|
|2004||Sea Island, United States||George W. Bush||No||Yes||No||253|
|2005||Gleneagles, United Kingdom||Tony Blair||No||Yes||No||212|
|2006||St. Petersburg, Russia||Vladimir Putin||No||No||No||317|
|2007||Heiligendamm, Germany||Angela Merkel||No||No||No||329|
|2008||Hokkaido, Japan||Yasuo Fukuda||Yes||Yes||No||206|
|2009||L'Aquila, Italy||Silvio Berlusconi||No||No||No||254|
|2010||Muskoka Canada||Stephen Harper||No||No||No||73|
|2011||Deauville, France||Nicolas Sarkozy||No||Yes||No||193|
|2012||Camp David, United States||Barack Obama||No||No||No||141|
|2013||Lough Erne, United Kingdom||David Cameron||No||No||No||214|
|2014||Brussels, Belgium (European Union)||Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso||No||-||-||141|
|2015||Elmau, Germany||Angela Merkel||No||No||No||376|
|2016||Ise-Shima, Japan||Shinzo Abe||No||Yes||No||196|
|2017||Taormina, Italy||Paolo Gentiloni||Yes||No||Yes||180|
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