G7 Summit in Sicily: A Test for Western Solidarity

On 26-27 May 2017, the Italian city of Taormina in Sicily hosted the G7 summit of world leaders. It was the first top-level meeting for US President Donald Trump, the British Prime Minister Theresa May, the new President of France Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. This year G7 summit was held amid a new geopolitical reality taking into account the following factors: approaching Brexit negotiations, a change of the US administration’s stance on a number of crucial issues, including free trade and climate change, Russia’s ‘hybrid’ interference in elections in the US and European states.


In the lead-up to the G7 summit the main attention was paid to such issues as combating terrorism, resolving the protracted conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as tackling the problem of North Korea’s nuclear programme. Among the economic issues, the parties discussed joint efforts to ensure economic growth and investment opportunities, fight against tax evasion by transnational corporations, trade deficit and the financing of terrorism. Prior to the summit US President Donald Trump has accused Germany of a large trade surplus with the United States, and during the election campaign he threatened German car companies to introduce a border tax on cars produced in Mexico and shipped to the US. The most difficult part of negotiations was fighting protectionism in international trade, abiding by Paris climate agreement, signed in late 2015, and also maintaining and strengthening sanctions against Russia for aggression against Ukraine.


The summit concluded with a joint communiqué, which included, inter alia, a consensus reached on free trade and conflict in Ukraine. According to the document, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to free trade and fighting protectionism, as well as achieving greater efficiency of the WTO. At the same time they stressed the need to address unfair trade practices, including dumping, discriminatory non-tariff restrictions, government subsidies to support export.


The parties agreed that full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all sides is central to resolving the conflict in Ukraine. The G7 leaders welcomed the efforts of the Normandy Group and OSCE Special Monitoring Mission on conflict de-escalation. They reiterated their rejection of the illegal annexation of Crimea and full support for Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity. World leaders recalled that sanctions against Russia are directly tied to its performance of its obligations under the Minsk agreements and its respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine. It is also stressed that sanctions could be suspended if Russia fulfills its obligations or enhanced to increase the Kremlin’s financial loss if circumstances shall so require. However, G7 states announced that despite their discrepancies with Russia they called upon Russia’s engagement in solving regional problems.


Until recently there was no clarity about the consensus on a common sanction policy towards Russia. On the eve of the G7 meeting President of the European Council Donald Tusk urged to extend sanctions against Russia. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko published a column in famous American edition Politico in which he urged the world leaders to maintain sanctions against Moscow, recalling the ruinous policy of appeasement. According to him, Russia has shown its willingness to attack, and the West should give a proportionate response, not limited to half-measures. Poroshenko and Tusk’s messages were heard and condemnation of Russia’s aggressive policy was reflected in the final document.


Despite reaching consensus on the most important international issues, the issue of climate change remains unresolved. Six states reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the Paris climate agreement, while the US has not yet determined its position on the issue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her dissatisfaction with the lack of consensus with US President D. Trump regarding climate change.


Among other issues it is worth to mention the agreement on the joint fight against terrorism, including in cyberspace, defeating ISIS and reaching progress towards a peace settlement in Syria and Libya. World leaders condemned the crimes of the Syrian regime, President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, and conducting of missile tests by North Korea. Other items of the joint communique were related to global economy, inequality in distribution of economic benefits, gender equality, the problems of refugees and migrants, food security and health care.


G7 summit was held immediately after the working meeting of NATO and before the G20 summit, which is arranged for 7-8 July 2017 in Hamburg. Unlike the G20, the G7 is a meeting in a narrow circle of world leaders, where compliance with a strict protocol is not required. Usually such meetings contribute to the establishment of close personal contacts and give an opportunity to discuss important international issues in a relaxed atmosphere. Instead, the G20 summits require strict adherence to the diplomatic protocol and final document to be agreed at the preparatory stage. Overall, the G7 summit became a kind of test for Western solidarity under the new leader of the White House before meeting in G20 format. After his inauguration on 20 January 2017, US President D. Trump got an opportunity to meet with the leaders of the countries – US traditional allies. We have already seen the attempts of the new American leader to apply business approach in foreign policy as was shown by calling NATO allies to increase military spending, to improve negative trade balance with Germany, to receive payment from South Korea for placing missile defence systems and to replace military grants to credits for Ukraine and several other countries. These trends might have disastrous implications for the US and worldwide, since after the WWII Washington has been the guardian of democratic values. This situation is favourable to Russia, which tries to use conflicts in Ukraine and Syria as trade-offs. Current scandal related to investigation of possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia became an obstacle to improving relations between the US and Russia. The fate of bilateral relations, including the resolution of the situation in Ukraine and Syria, largely depends on the results of this investigation and meeting between Trump and Putin, to be held during the G20 summit on 7-8 July 2017.

Viacheslav Holub

Expert, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes


I was borned in 1990 in Pavlograd, Dnipropetrovsk region.

Education:

National university of Ostroh academy (2013). Specialization: master in international relations, political analyst, translator.

I have passed internships at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (2011, 2013, 2014-2015), Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on European Integration under Internship program at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine administered by NGO “Intern’s League”.

Work experience:

October 2015 – August 2016 — public service at the State Agency on Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving of Ukraine.

August – December 2016 — expert in internal policy at the International Centre for Policy Studies.

From January 2017 — expert in foreign policy and international security programs at Razumkov Centre.

(044) 201-11-98

holub@razumkov.org.ua