The G20 is convening once again and, yet again, little is expected to come out of it. Still, the forum could be of value, says Peter Sturm of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, if only it were a smaller affair.
Last year, one may have gotten the impression that the sole purpose of the annual G20 summit of world leaders was to offer a target to protest against in the most violent terms. In any case, the images that the world saw of the Hamburg meeting were shocking. There will also be protests in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires — one can only hope they remain peaceful this time around.
There can be no doubt that in that sense the G20 has become like every other major summit. The first installment took place in the wake of the global financial crisis and seemed like the best possible format for ensuring that all representatives could voice their concerns and pose solutions to the globe's most pressing problems.
In theory, that holds true to this day. That is also why global trade will top the agenda in Buenos Aires, though most participants will be relegated to supporting roles in light of the ongoing US-China trade war.
Overall, however, the organization and range of topics addressed at the summit have ballooned to the point that serious talks between the "bosses" are hardly possible. Not only is the constant demand for nice pictures an impediment, so too are the divergent interests of the summit's participants. Final communiqués reflect this — that is, if a final communiqué can even be drafted. In any case, realistic solutions are rarely produced by the meetings.
So should the annual meeting be scrapped? Should one simply agree to save the massive amount of money that goes into hosting the summit and protecting its participants? Among the endless platitudes that the world's leaders utter, one is, nevertheless, valid. It is indeed better to talk with one another than about one another. And it is also correct that there are a number of problems for which there are no solutions, or at least no quick ones.
In light of that fact, participants and interested observers would do well to lower their expectations. The summits should continue but participants should free themselves of their compulsion to produce as much hot air as possible. The original meeting of the heads of the world's leading industrial nations, known today as the G7, began in a fireplace salon in France. Perhaps it would be a good idea if the G20 went back to those roots.