Summit on shaky ground

The G8 summit is on shaky ground. The heads of state and government of the seven leading industrial nations and Russia will meet in the Italian earthquake region of Abruzzo starting Wednesday for their annual summit meeting. Despite persistent earth tremors, conference venue and press center in L'Aquila made a good impression, German government officials ared in Berlin Tuesday. The future of the G8 summit itself, however, does not seem at all certain.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had surprisingly moved the meeting with his colleagues from the enchanting Sardinian island of La Maddalena to the earthquake city. It is possible that the head of government, who has recently been tarnished by sex scandals and nude photos at the swimming pool, merely wanted to prevent more bathing pictures from being taken. The official reason, however, was solidarity with the region destroyed by an earthquake at the beginning of April, where tens of thousands of people are still homeless.German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) will visit the village of Onna, near L'Aquila, immediately before the start of the G8 summit. On 11. In June 1944, the Wehrmacht massacred 17 civilians there. In the earthquake, almost all the buildings in the village have been razed to the ground, and more than 40 of the 300 inhabitants have lost their lives. Germany has therefore concentrated its reconstruction aid on the village. "We are full of confidence in the Italian host, who has put a lot of energy into moving the meeting venue in order to send a political signal," was the statement from the German government ahead of the summit. Any doubts about the political qualities of the dazzling head of government were dismissed in Berlin. Berlusconi is by no means only interested in nice photos, but is a "very good" and "very committed" negotiator. The G8 summit will be successful and by no means the last of its kind. Merkel, however, had already recently made it clear in the Bundestag where the diplomatic journey was headed: "The summit in L'Aquila will make it clear that this G8 format is no longer sufficient. The world is growing together, and the problems "can no longer be solved by the industrialized countries alone," the chancellor stressed. The Heiligendamm Process, launched two years ago under the German G8 presidency, is logically entering the next round in 'LAquila. The extension of the dialogue with the emerging countries Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa for another two years will be one of the results of the summit. The top-level meeting itself will also be marked by extended rounds of talks. At the beginning of the meeting, the leaders of the United States, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Canada, France, Italy and Russia will discuss among themselves the global economy in crisis, climate change and development aid. At a dinner, foreign policy conflict hotspots such as Iran, the Middle East, Afghanistan and North Korea and questions of disarmament will be on the agenda.On the second day of the summit, however, the G8 round will be expanded once again to include Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa (G5). At Berlusconi's request, Egypt's President Husni Mubarak will also take part in the talks on the global economy. Representatives of international organizations are also invited to a working dinner. The climate debate, which has been dragging on lately, is finally to be relaunched in the so-called "Major Economies Forum" (MEF). This means that in addition to the G8 and G5, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea will also be present, and later the Danes will be added as hosts of the Copenhagen climate conference. A follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol is to be negotiated there in December. On Friday in L'Aquila, the focus will be on food security for humankind and Africa. The MEF members, Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria, Angola, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, Turkey and representatives of several international organizations will sit at the negotiating table. The head of state of Libya and current president of the African Union, Muammar al-Gaddafi, is also in Abruzzo with his government canopy. This could well be an advantage in the event of further earth tremors, German government officials jokingly said. If necessary, the summit could then take refuge in a tent, "perhaps that of Gaddafi".

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