Germany Wants G8 to ′Go Back to its Roots′ | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 29.12.2006
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Germany Wants G8 to 'Go Back to its Roots'

Germany takes over the leadership of the G8 presidency next year and says it wants to refocus the group on problems facing the global economy.

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Germany will put Africa on the agenda again

When Group of Eight (G8) leaders gather in the exclusive Baltic seaside resort of Heiligendamm in northeast Germany next June, the host nation will not be seeking to imitate the pop glamour that accompanied the Gleneagles summit during the British G8 presidency in 2005.

"The British have a knack for that sort of thing," said Bernd Pfaffenbach, Germany's G8 organizer, said recently.

For Germany, which assumes the G8 presidency for one year in January, what is important is the lasting change that such summits can achieve.

"We want more to go back to the roots of the World Economic Summit as it was previously known," added Pfaffenbach. "We're concerned with the problems of the global economy."

The G8 comprises the world's seven richest nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States -- and Russia. Germany is also taking over the six-month revolving presidency of the European Union starting from January.

Africa again on the agenda

Under the British G8 presidency in 2005, which culminated in the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, pop stars such as U2 front man Bono lent the proceedings that extra touch of glamour. His Live 8 rock concerts were the highlight of a high-profile campaign for debt relief of the world's poorest nations.

Die Ratlosigkeit der Mächtigen

Merkel will take over as the EU president as well

Heiligendamm, an exclusive five-star resort on Germany's Baltic coastline, is almost as plush as Gleneagles. And Africa will again top the agenda this time around.

But Berlin wants to move on from the multi-billion-dollar debt relief agreed in Gleneagles and instead urge African countries to take a more hands-on approach, fighting corruption and pushing for more democracy so as to create better conditions for foreign investment.

G8 leaders will also tackle a whole host of drier-sounding issues, such as structural reforms in Europe, the massive twin budget and trade deficits of the United States and China's vast foreign currency reserves.

A call for greater transparency

A top-ranking government official from Beijing will be present in Heiligendamm, as well as representatives from other countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, where the talks will cover wage levels and social standards, as well as product piracy.

Demonstration in Gleneagles

Protestors are already at work

Energy, too, will be on the agenda, with Berlin looking to make progress on drawing up a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol on climate protection, which runs out in 2012.

Another key issue will be Germany's campaign for greater transparency on the worldwide financial and capital markets.

Berlin has long campaigned for increased regulation of so-called hedge funds -- highly speculative and aggressive investment funds that are estimated to manage more than a trillion dollars in assets worldwide.

Global system needs stability

While Germany does not have a big hedge fund sector itself, it argues that greater control is needed for the stability of the global financial system.

The issue will top the agenda of a meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bank chiefs in the western German city of Essen in February.

While both the US and Britain have been reluctant to back the campaign in the past, there appears to be signs of some common ground being found.

Berlin appears ready to scale back its ambitions of drawing up concrete measures, while Washington seems to be coming around to the idea that action could be necessary, especially in the wake of the collapse of US hedge fund Amaranth Advisors. "One mustn't be too ambitious," said Pfaffenbach. "You can't simply take an ax to it and want to install rigid rules. That won't happen. But transparency has never hurt anyone. A joint final statement calling for more transparency would be feasible and desirable."

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