Seven Days to L’Aquila: Is Anybody There?

Paola Subacchi
Research Director, International Economics, Chatham House

In Rome for the first of a series of events ahead of the G8 Summit in L’Aquila. In the meeting room the chairs are uncomfortable and it is too hot, but the setting is splendid. The conference title – “Global Financial Crises: National Economic Solutions, Geopolitical Impacts” – does not even hint at the G8. Presentations and discussion revolve around the economic crisis: not many new ideas and a string of rather old-fashioned comments. Only the last session focuses on the forthcoming summit, but no effort is made to contextualise the G8 within the current crisis.

Compared to London there is no sense of urgency nor any belief that the G8 leaders should reinforce the message of confidence – of ‘being in charge’ –the key motif of the London Summit. Is it because the crisis is not on the agenda? Or is it because there is less sense of urgency?

Not many people in the room detect ‘green shoots’ and overall the sentiment is gloomy. But nobody gives a thought that there is an unfinished agenda from the London Summit and the G8 leaders could address items that are relevant to the crisis-resolution. Nobody even mentions that the G8 plans to ask the IMF for advice on the ‘exit strategy’.

One wonders whether the G8 is perceived as still relevant. Certainly non-Italian participants seem to believe that the G20 has set the bar higher, forcing the G8 to reinvent itself. Out on the streets of Rome people are oblivious to the forthcoming Summit – although L’Aquila is not far from Rome. The taxi driver from the airport the previous night showed no interest in discussing the G8, despite my many attempts to lead the conversation to it – he was rather passionate about “too many immigrants, too many criminals”, with a clear equation: immigrants-criminals. The Italian press is busy with the latest tragic accident: an explosion in the railway station in Viareggio, a town on the Versilian coast.

The G8 grabs a few marginal headlines. No buzz, no expectations, unlike in London in April.

Disclaimer: This blog is solely intended to spur discussion, while the opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI, Chatham House or their respective Boards of Directors.

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2 Responses to Seven Days to L’Aquila: Is Anybody There?

  1. Annette Hester says:

    Dear Paola;

    Thanks for the insight. The lack of appetite for and interest about the G8 meeting you describe echoes what I have been noticing from my dealings here in Canada and from the Brazilian press.

    I am not surprised about Canadian attitude… here it is all about a much needed Summer break. The Brazilian take? It is much more interesting…. it is not that they are indifferent. It is a case of Lula saying: meet all you want but you will have to deal with the issues at the G20 level — whether you want it or not.

    It seems to me that unless the G8 leaders embrace a different agenda — as suggested in a previous blog article by Andrew Cooper — the days of this particular club are numbered.

    Is that what you sense?

  2. paola subacchi says:

    Dear Annette,

    My sense is that we are already in a post-G8 phase. As the world has changed – and the crisis is acting as a catalyst of change – the L’Aquila summit has to expand the number of invitees. But the point is not how many countries are invited to parts of the summit – in line with the different items on the agenda – but the membership of the club. Invitees have little influence on the agenda and are ‘invited’ to contribute to the discussion. I don’t think this is the way forward. I would rather see the G20 – or a similar ‘expanded’ forum – to deal with global issues, while the G8 – or G7 – to be a caucus for the economies of similar size and development.

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