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The Last Hurrah

The real question looming over this summit is the world’s displaced population, now equivalent in size to the 12 largest countries, due to ongoing wars.

2 mins read
UK PM Rishi Sunak [Photo: IANS]

The 50th G7 Meeting of world leaders is being held in Fasano, Apulia, Italy from 13 to 15 June 2024, chaired by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy, who has been in power for over two years. Her hard-right party, the Brothers of Italy, performed exceptionally well in the recent EU Parliamentary elections and is gaining significant traction in hard-right politics on the international stage. Meanwhile, many of her G7 colleagues are politically hamstrung. Joe Biden (US) faces a difficult election campaign, Rishi Sunak (UK) may be out of office come 5 July, and France and Germany are dealing with a surge in right-wing support following recent elections. Canada and Japan are also down in the polls.

Expectations from this summit vary, with different prospects for any form of progress or success.

The G7 is traditionally a forum for discussing economic issues, but this time religion will feature prominently, with Pope Francis representing the Vatican State in attendance. He is scheduled to speak on Friday, 14 June, during a session on “Artificial Intelligence” and Surveillance Capitalism, as well as renewing his appeal for peace.

The real question looming over this summit is the world’s displaced population, now equivalent in size to the 12 largest countries, due to ongoing wars.

According to the New York Times, this summit is being held at a time when the attending leaders are weakened, as they attempt to discuss solutions in an unruly world.

There is always a lot to discuss at these G7 meetings, much of it not on the formal agenda and generally handled in one-on-one meetings between leaders.

Who attends and who has the most say?

This summit will bring together the leaders of the G7 member states, as well as the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Additionally, 12 other invited world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be present.

Regarding the $350 billion worth of frozen Russian assets, there appears to be political will to support an agreement for over £50 billion in loans for Ukraine, backed by profits accrued on Russian assets in the West after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine on 7 February 2022. Understandably, discussions at this summit will also address the contentious issue of a ceasefire settlement in Gaza.

What is not mentioned is the “Mattei Plan” to curb migration to Europe from poorer nations and to boost growth in the southern continent of Africa, a topic very close to Giorgia Meloni’s heart.

According to observers, Meloni’s project embodies her vision to project power in Africa and turn Italy into a bridge for gas distribution from Africa and the Mediterranean to the rest of Europe, as well as supporting economic growth to stem mass migration from the African continent.

Italy aims to step into Africa to supplement China’s efforts, as competitor France faces setbacks. We all know that Mussolini’s Italy had a lighter colonial history in Africa compared to France. Here lies Meloni’s strength; she wants to drive a wedge between Britain and France.

This is vividly seen in the attached photo, where she appears to mollify Britain by asking Rishi Sunak, “Are you OK?”, especially using her charm to comfort the British Prime Minister after his gruelling performance at the Sky TV Election broadcast with Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer in Grimsby the night before.

Meloni’s critics argue that her focus on Africa is more on investment than development, replacing NGOs and humanitarian organisations as the vehicles of a past era.

Will it be the last hurrah for Rishi Sunak? It’s anybody’s guess. Will Italy hope to promote Sunak? No one knows.

Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

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