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The Group of Eight and the European Union: The Evolving Partnership


As the countdown to the new Millennium commences, reflections on the past and visions of the future become opportune. For it is only through an understanding of the past that we can hope to improve on the future. In keeping with this spirit, while this study traces the evolution of the Group of Eight (G8), with particular focus on its partnership with the European Union (EU), it also analyzes the manner in which both institutions are preparing for the future.

The G81 , consisting of eight major industrialized countries together with the participation of the EU (G8+1), has had a relatively mixed existence with no shortage of criticism. To their credit, the members of the G8 have demonstrated an ability to recognize shortcomings of the summit process and strive to bring about improvements. In addition to the annual G8 summits, programs for coordinating economic and monetary policies as well as for establishing cohesion in political and security issues among participants continue to expand.

The extent to which the G8 has developed is noteworthy. Evidence of the dynamic nature of the G8 is seen in its evolving partnership with the EU. The objective of this study is to examine the basis for and content of this evolution. We will argue that the dual expansion of both the G8 and the EU including new members while broadening their areas of policy cooperation has necessitated restructuring, reform and re-evaluation: restructuring to increase their flexibility, reform to facilitate effective decision-making and re-evaluation to correctly appraise their changing relationship.

This study is comprised of three sections: 1) a review and evaluation of the history of the G8 summit meetings2 including recent reforms and a description of the process of preparation as well as a discussion of the programs of cooperation; 2) an analysis of the evolving role the EU has played within the G8, including a case study of the Global Information Projects which illustrates the EU's increasing participation; and 3) an appraisal of the G8+1 as it prepares for the future.3

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Updated: February 1999

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