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How to Make the G8 More Effective?

The G8 used to be criticized as an evil capitalist group of powerful countries that determines world politics and economics without legitimacy like the UN. There has not been much of such criticism at this year's summit in Japan.

This time, lack of effectiveness was the most common criticism. The G8 is increasingly seen as a Western talking shop that is doing photo-ops with rock stars and third world leaders, but fails to act on its past promises on development aid and is increasingly incapable to shape international economic affairs.

Besides, Senators McCain and Obama recently had a dispute as to whether Russia should be excluded from the Group of Eight.

Consequently, there have been several reform proposals to make the G8 more effective:

L20: upgrade the existing G20
G13: G8 + the "outreach 5"
G9: leading market democracies
G3: US, EU & China
G3: US, EU & Japan

The Atlantic Community explains these proposals and asks: "Should the G8 be enlarged to include new major international players or contracted to ensure effectiveness?" If you register on Atlantic Community, then you can vote on the above options.

G8 Finances 70 Projects to Improve Afghan-Pakistan Cooperation

Closer cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a key factor in enhancing stability in Afghanistan. Therefore the G8 are launching "a coordinated package of measures ranging from assistance for refugees and returnees to strengthening parliamentary contacts. Since a particular focus of the package is support for local security services and border protection, much of the funding is to be spent in the Afghan-Pakistan border area." The press release from Germany's Federal Foreign Office does not have much more information unfortunately.

The G8 plan is called "ambitious," but I wonder how serious the plan is since the press release states that Germany will only make 9 million euro available for 2008. Or perhaps it's more important how the money is spent rather than how much is spent; see Kyle's post about criticism from Congress regarding aid to Pakistan or the essay from spring 2007 "When $10 Billion Is Not Enough: Rethinking U.S. Strategy toward Pakistan" by Craig Cohen and Derek Chollet in The Washington Quarterly (pdf). Still, I believe 9 million euro does not go very far, even if the other G8 countries pitch in as well.

And with this, Germany's G8 Presidency ends. Japan will take over in 2008. Germany was not very successful, I believe. See the following Atlantic Review post: Who's Right on the G8-Summit: Bloggers or Academics and Politicians? 

Related post on Afghanistan: Fixing the Afghanistan mission: The U.S. wants to try, but what about Europe?

Security Measures at the G8 Summit

Apparently the US Secret Service does not trust German security agencies. EUX:
Sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that US security men tested German security by trying to smuggle C4 plastic explosive past a checkpoint at Heiligendamm. German surveillance machinery detected the tiny stash in a suitcase in a car and the Americans in plainclothes then identified themselves. German police declined comment.
This is great material for conspiracy theories. The German press pretty much ignored it, but it is at Digg: "Had the American agents succeeded and set those explosives off, would the attack have been blamed on Iran?" One of the very few German media reports at sz-online stresses that it was a very small amount of C4, i.e. not enough for an attack. 

Is Germany soft on security? Check out this video of the Bundeswehr chasing Greenpeace. Funny water ballet music, but also a bit excessively brutal towards the end. Fortunately, nobody got injured. Kudos for that. I wonder what the US rules of engagement would have been. Would the US agents have shot at Greenpeace? After all, it could have been Al Qaeda using a Greenpeace flag?

Who's Right on the G8-Summit: Bloggers or Academics and Politicians?

I work as head of research for the Online Think Tank Atlantic Community. We have covered the G8 summit extensively.

• John Kirton of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto argued that the 2007 G8 summit was "a striking success." See his op-ed: Blair's Farewell Breathes New Life Into G8:
[The G8's] biggest breakthrough came on climate, thanks to Tony Blair’s influence on an accommodating George Bush, bridge building by Canada’s Stephen Harper, and Angela Merkel’s skill in uniting her Atlantic allies on an ambitious new approach.
• Marco Overhaus of the University of Trier argued: Flawed G8 is Still "Best Show In Town"

• Katherina Reiche, a leading German CDU parliamentarian, opines that "the G8 summit achieved great progress on climate change policy" and argues: US and EU Should Cooperate on New Energy Technology

• In my round-up What Bloggers Are Saying About The G8 Summit, I wrote that most bloggers complained about much talk and too few results and that the bloggers used a lot of sarcasm and humor in their coverage of the G8 Summit.

What do you think? Who got it right? What is your assessment of the G8 Summit?
I'd appreciate your comments here on Atlantic Review and on Atlantic Community. Registration at the latter is real fast.

G8 Summit: Blogosphere Round-up

I have written a post for the Atlantic Community about Bloggers opinions on the G8 summit in Germany. I have described bloggers' serious and sarcastic commentary on the lack of real commitments concerning climate change and aid for Africa (exception: Bush's $ 30 billion for the next five years).
I ended with blogs discussing our world leaders drinking sessions: The Germans made Bush drink beer? Has Putin drank Sarkozy under the table, see video of press conference and judge for yourself. Why was Bush sick? Putin attacked him with Polonium? Check it out!
The Atlantic Community is a new "Open Think Tank on Global Issue" which features serious and constructive policy discussions on important issues for the transatlantic alliance:
energy security, terrorism, proliferation, trade, development, climate change, china, India, Greater Middle East etc.

My Atlantic Review colleague Sonja Bonin, working as a journalist and translator in Shanghai, has written
"Europe and America Too Divided Over China Policy" for the Atlantic Community. She argues that
the United States and Europe should unify their policies on China. Both currently have separate strategies on how to deal with China’s growing economic and military might. This division shows other rising powers that the West lacks a plan to keep its place in a new world order.
You can comment on any article in the Atlantic Community, when you take a few seconds to register here. Registration also enables you to use our community directory, find other members with similar interests, start networking and participate in our polls.

US and German Officials Issue Terror Threat Warnings

ABC NEWS (HT: David):
U.S. and German officials fear terrorists are in the advanced planning stages of an attack on U.S. military personnel or tourists in Germany. "The information behind the threat is very real," a senior U.S. official told ABC News.
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble told reporters, "The danger level is high. We are part of the global threat by Islamist terrorism." Of particular concern, according to U.S. and German law enforcement officials, is Patch Barracks, the headquarters for U.S. European Command, near Stuttgart.
A threat warning issued by United States in Germany last month could involve attack plans by an al Qaeda-affiliated group of Kurdish extremists, officials said on Friday. U.S. and German authorities said, however, that there was no new threat in Germany beyond the official April 20 State Department warning. They were responding to a report by ABC News on its Web site on Friday that officials believed terrorists were in the advanced planning stages for an attack on U.S. military personnel or tourists in Germany. In the April 20 warning, the U.S. embassy in Germany encouraged Americans in the country to increase their vigilance and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.
Hundreds of German police combed offices and flats associated with leftwing activists across six northern cities yesterday, saying they had evidence that a terrorist organisation was planning to disrupt next month's G8 summit.

EU Grows and Germany Takes Over G8 and EU Presidency

Today, January 1st, Bulgaria and Romania join the European Union. Slovenia joins the Eurozone. And Germany takes over the presidency of the European Union for the first half of 2007 and the G8 for the entire year. One of Chancellor Merkel's first tasks is to have consultations with President Bush in Washington on January 4th.
The International Herald Tribune reports that Germany is working on a proposal for a tougher European policy on Russia.

DW World reports that Germany wants the G8 to 'go back to its roots' and refocus on problems facing the global economy, incl. structural reforms in Europe, the massive twin budget and trade deficits of the United States, China's vast foreign currency reserves, and greater transparency on the worldwide financial and capital markets.

DW World points out:
For the first time, the euro surpassed the US dollar in terms of the number of banknotes in circulation. Despite the euro's strength, European citizens remain skeptical, blaming it for making things more expensive.
The International Herald Tribune (HT: Influx) reports that the United Arab Emirates have started
"in a limited way," to sell part of its dollar reserves, the governor of the country's central bank, Sultan Bin Nasser al-Suwaidi, said in an interview. "We will accumulate euros each time the market appears to dip" as part of a plan to expand the country's holding of euros to 10 percent of the total from the current 2 percent. The Gulf state is among oil producers, including Iran, Venezuela and Indonesia, looking to shift their currency reserves into euros or sell their oil, which is now priced in dollars, for euros.
The German EU Presidency website mentions sensible long-term planning and cooperation with smaller EU countries:
For the first time an 18-month programme for the three successive German, Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies was elaborated for the period January 2007 to June 2008. (...) This "team programme" is designed to increase continuity in the Council's work.
According to the White House, President Bush and Chancellor Merkel will discuss these topics on January 4th: Afghanistan, advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace, Lebanon, "preventing Iran from developing the capability to make nuclear weapons, ending the violence in Darfur, determining the final status of Kosovo, promoting free trade and further transatlantic economic integration, and advancing energy security. The German role on all of these issues will be especially important in 2007 as Germany assumes the presidencies of both the European Union and G-8 on January 1."

Funny Endnote and counter example to the survey that revealed young Americans "Geographic Illiteracy":
"A 21-year-old German tourist who wanted to visit his girlfriend in the Australian metropolis Sydney landed 13,000 kilometers (8,077 miles) away near Sidney, Montana, after mistyping his destination on a flight booking Web site. Dressed for the Australian summer in T-shirt and shorts, Tobi Gutt left Germany on Saturday for a four-week holiday,"
CNN has learned.

Germany's Growing Foreign Policy Role and the Love for Merkel

"Chancellor Merkel gets high marks as Germany prepares to lead the EU next year and host the G-8 summit." writes Andreas Tzortzis in the Christian Science Monitor article "Germany's role grows as agenda-setter."
I understand that many Americans appreciate Merkel, because they strongly disliked Schroeder, but I am nevertheless surprised, when the Monitor's Germany correspondent opines that Merkel is "able to share George W. Bush's fervor for freedom" because she was "raised in a former communist regime." This seems to be another indication that the so-called liberal US media is not anti-Bush. Besides, Merkel was not a dissident in East Germany. I think most American journalists overestimate the influence, which Merkel's East German past has on her foreign policy. Quote from the article:
While not drastically changing the foreign-policy course set by her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, she has replaced his emphasis on emotional, personal ties with a sort of friendly distance.  Raised in a former communist regime, she's able to share George W. Bush's fervor for freedom and still criticize US policy in Guantanamo Bay. In fluent Russian, she can praise Germany's close partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin and then raise questions about Moscow's treatment of NGOs and the deaths of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former spy Alexander Litvinenko. The result, says Hans-Ulrich Klose, a foreign policy expert in the Social Democratic Party, is a head of state who can boast solid relationships with leaders in Washington, Europe, and the Middle East - vital assets in the months ahead. "She addresses critical topics ... but she doesn't do it in the way that the person across from her feels challenged or hurt," says Mr. Klose. "She's not a confrontational person."
It's a good article overall. The praise for Chancellor Merkel, however, is exaggerated. And the fact that the Egyptian president and the Israeli prime minister visited Berlin within two days is not special or new for Germany. (The Monitor makes the mistake of calling Ehud Olmert the Israeli "president.") Phrases like "fervor for freedom" might be popular US election campaign rhetoric, but you don't hear such rhetoric in Germany, certainly not in newspapers. ("Fervor" is American English for the German words: Eifer, Leidenschaft, Inbrunst, Glut.) Nobody in Germany describes Merkel or any other politicians with such phrases. Anyway, it's not fervor that counts, but results. History will judge President Bush by his track record regarding the spread and increase of freedom rather than his "fervor".

In the New Statesman article "Europe's Saviour," Roger Boyes expresses his preference of Merkel over former chancellors Kohl and Schroeder and argues that Merkel could "shine" during Germany's upcoming EU and G8 presidency, but concludes that Merkel will fail:
Europe is in a leadership vacuum. Ségo versus Sarko in France, an uneasy handover in Britain, Prodi wobbly, post-election Holland and Austria without governments, Sweden moulting ministers, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic all in varying degrees of mess. One could add: a limping White House, and a Kremlin preparing for succession.
If ever there was a time for Germany to assert its new-found confidence, this would be it. The economy is recovering strongly. Political opposition is virtually irrelevant, because a grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Christian Socialists can cook up more or less what it wants. And yet Germany's 2007 agenda looks ambitious for an incrementalist such as Merkel. Reviving the European constitution; securing Europe's energy supplies; a more dynamic European policy on the Middle East; an accord with Russia signed and sealed before Vladimir Putin heads off to a retirement job at Gazprom; a firmer line on Turkey; breaking the regulatory grip of Brussels on industry; controlling hedge funds: these are just some of the aims percolating in Berlin. But remember how Tony Blair declared his intention to save Africa, and failed? Angela Merkel is out to save Europe. And failure, sad to say, is almost certain.
Boyes ends with: "Europe, in search of a national leader, will still be searching for one when nice Mrs Merkel has had her year in the spotlight." Well, I don't think Europe is searching for a national leader. The idea that the German chancellor could lead and the rest of Europe follows is ridiculous. Instead, every EU member has to increase efforts to find compromises for various EU issues, make tough decisions and sell them to the public despite domestic resistance. That's how it works. No "national leader" can change that and "lead" Europe.