Hamburg, Violence, G20 – Is This a Viable Format?

The G 20 summit came to Hamburg, overwhelming the city, and has now moved on. As for high politics, it was partly 20 – 0 (everyone allegedly against terrorism), 19 – 1 (climate change), and an unclear constellation in trade matters (with some issues having not been clearly framed).

Along with 10,000 politicians, sherpas, journalists, and 20,000 police officers, there also were hundreds of thousands of demonstrators (at one point on Sunday), and some 1,000 or so hard-core violent fighters who enjoyed the opportunity to endulge their machismo and seed chaos and fright. Even judging the whole theatre with benevolence from a distant viewer’s seat, one can hardly can avoid having the impression that there was a gross mismatch between the enormous efforts, and cost, to prepare and implement and defend all this, on the one hand, and the outcome, on the other.

The absent veto players and electorates from the domestic scenery are always around. There are too many topics and way too many participants/ guests. If we assume that the 40 leading individuals (19 plus one participants, plus 20 high-level reps from international organizations and the like) only talk for five minutes each, then three and a half hours are gone.

So this week’s question is: Are these monster-meetings any good?

– Klaus Segbers

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 10 months ago

    The G-20 has it sense. It enables world leaders to see each other regularly, sit together and talk on the one or two most important issues in a format other than UN meetings. However, when such meetings started, they were much smaller in size and led to the discussion of fundamental questions to the benefit of ordinary people. Their evolvement into monster-meetings with thousands of participants aside, they seem to lose their initial cause. Hence numerous protests. May be it is a time to return to more practical results and bring the G-20 agenda closer to ordinary people?

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  2. Justas Paleckis 10 months ago

    The G20 summits (like the G7) have their routine: leaders are talking, while anti-globalists are protesting. This time in Hamburg, hard-core violent fighters indeed did some work more actively than usual and chaos was inevitable. The police could easily secure public order if the world’s most powerful leaders were gathered in a more secluded place than a millionth port. But talks in Hamburg were also useful. At least it was slightly pushed forward on all issues discussed. It is necessary for the leaders of the most powerful states to meet, talk, argue and search for a compromise. The more often, the better. Especially today, when we remember the times of the Cold War as relatively calm. In addition to the G20 summits there could be organized more compact meetings: members of the UN Security Council plus its potential members – India, Brazil, Japan, Germany, maybe PAR. Such summits would at least partially compensate the UN’s impotence. Stronger contacts between leaders, their open discussions would definitely contribute to the scattering of fatal threats jeopardizing our world. The problem of cost of organizing such summits is more than a secondary issue.

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  3. Stefan Engert 10 months ago

    The G-20 is a yearly forum that assembles the world largest national economies. Its membership is exclusive (based on economic importance), which means that poorer regions – the African continent in particular – are underrepresented (compared to their population numbers). During the annual meetings, the governments primarily discuss economic and financial matters; decisions are non-binding and non-transparent. Therefore one could question the G-20’s legitimacy in any case. It is no wonder that the meetings attract popular mass protest from the anti-globalization movement. Whilst this form of democratic protest is indeed necessary and legitimate (e.g. “Lieber tanz’ ich als G-20”, “Global Solidarity Summit”, “1.000 Gestalten”) in order to hold non-transparent governmental clubs such as the G-20 accountable to public scrutiny, the so-called Black Bloc violence that accompanied the recent meeting in Hamburg is not because rioting in the streets, looting shops, and setting cars on fire simply is crime and can neither be labelled nor justified as a form of anti-capitalistic dissidence. As argued, G-20 summit meetings are already dubious with regard to their political legitimacy. Their effectiveness (i.e. political problem solving capacity) doesn’t seem to convince, too. Thus, is the whole G-20 thing redundant in any case? Rather a ‘Yes’. But nobody needs criminal activities to remind us of that point.

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  4. Anastasia Wischnewskaja 10 months ago

    As the complexity of the globalized world is growing, international politics moves along with this trend, making negotiations and communication processes more complicated. There is however a real need for more communication and coordination, the only question is if mega-formats like G20 are appropriate to accommodate those needs. What I personally appreciate about G20 is that it is a non-bureaucratic format. There are so many international organizations that are effectively downgraded to talking shop, but have apparatus’ and budgets, that G20 – useless as it is – appears to be more efficient in terms of cost effect calculation. What worked for Europe (more bureaucracy) will not necessarily work for the whole world and it is time to think about handing some IOs’ responsibilities over to G20. Then it would be possible to hold the meeting at one of the UN’ venues maybe even right before or after the General Assembly, that would make it more cost-efficient.

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  5. Sergei Medvedev 10 months ago

    The meetings of the G7, G8 and eventually G20 have become increasingly obsolete in
    the world of cross-border flows, networked transactions and distributed governance.
    National governments, their organizations and networks cannot capture the new fluid
    reality, hence the increasing inadequacy of these meetings, and the declaratory
    nature of their policy outcomes. The G20 is a travesty of global governance, trying
    to cope with the 21st century challenges with the mechanisms devised deep in the
    20th century.

    On the other hand, in the society of spectacle, this roaming circus produces an
    important media event, reassuring the global public and endorsing national
    bureaucracies and security policies – in a sense, this is a self-contained security
    operation, a moveable state of exception that legitimizes national security
    institutions and practices. And, yes, it also gives jobs to experts like us that
    are compelled to comment each time the circus comes to town.

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  1. Sandra Miller 10 months ago

    The objectives of the G20 Summit 2017 were major global economic challenges and had the goal of important multilateral achievements. However, the G20 countries do not show a coherent strategy and lack collective action on most issues. For now, we can see a unilateral approach of the United States toward global issues such as climate change. The preferences of G20 countries are divergent; thus, the summit is unable to accomplish its core mission.

    The G20 2017 Leaders’ Declaration states: “Progressing our joint objective in the G20 – strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth – remains our highest priority.” (Preamble)

    Unfortunately, this statement significantly diverges from the G20’s actions and policies. In fact, the performance of the G20 to achieve sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth has been poor. Moreover, in the face of poor economic performance anti-globalist populist movements are rising. Hence it is hard to put any faith in the effectiveness of such multilateral forums in the future.

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  2. Zoltan Eperjesi 10 months ago

    G20 and the lessons of Hamburg as showdown for various actors, inclusively troublemakers

    On the first day of the meeting participants discussed about how to combat international terrorism, then at a working lunch the main topics were: the state of the world economy and international trade. Finally they also talked on the agenda of sustainable development, climate change and energy policy. It follows a short review about the most important events of the meeting, the most significant statements and the results of the negotiations. Prime Minister Theresa May declared before the summit that they will try to convince President Trump to join the Paris Climate Convention again, but after the press conference of chancellor Merkel this goal has definitely failed. The final statement of the summit clearly shows that there are different opinions in the fight against climate change among the biggest global players, and the US wants to leave the Paris Convention. Except for trade, there were no disagreements in economic matters. The participants stressed that the world economy is in much better shape for the first time of G20, compared to 2008, and this more peaceful situation should be used to implement dynamic structural reforms. It is essential to ensure that the strongest economies adapt to the challenges of digitization and automation. Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that there were “difficult discussions” on international trade and there was no agreement among participants on the Paris climate agreement. According to leaders of the BRICS countries, namely China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa, emerging markets and developing countries need to be strengthened in international financial and economic organizations. They were in the favor of more open markets and the Paris Climate Convention. The first Trump-Putin meeting was held. The two presidents declared to the press that they were already waiting for the meeting and they believe that it will be successful. According to President Donald Trump, “positive things will happen”. They were planning the meeting for half an hour but they have talked about nearly two and a half hours. This meeting raised hopes for an approach of these two most powerful men in the world. Source: The first leaked information from the bilateral meeting of the two presidents was provided by the AP news agency, according to this Trump and Putin agreed a ceasefire in Syria. This, however, was not negotiated in Hamburg, but previously in Jordan and applies only to a part of territory of the country. There was already a de-escalation strategy for this, which, however, did not yet functioned. According to US diplomats, the ceasefire may already take effect on the same week (Sunday noon), so the Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad and his army, supported by Russians, and US-sponsored anti-government insurgents, will also lay down their weapons Sunday at noon. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Wiktorowitsch Lawrow has confirmed the news media: the American side has committed itself to monitor compliance with the cease-fire agreements on the opposition side and in the ceasefire zone designated in the southwest of Syria, Russian troops will ensure order. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after the Putin-Trump talks that although he still does not know how this will happen, but the Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad must sooner or later lay down its power position. He did not say anything about who would lead Syria but firmly stated that the Assad family would not have a role after the transformation. But peace in Syria is a great desire in the world, so that the two presidents, Trump and Putin showed briefly symbolically reconciliation possibilities at the summit. President Trump not only met with President Putin for the first time since his election, but also with the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. According to Reuters, Mexico has positively assessed the bilateral talks. This is unusual because Donald Trump insisted before and after the meeting that he would made to pay the Mexican government for the planned border wall between the United States and Mexico. The most important topic at the bilateral meeting was the renegotiation of the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement concluded by the United States with Mexico and Canada in 1994. According to President Enrique Peña Nieto there is agreement on common goals, so the new convention can be completed this year. One of the main messages of Mr. Trump’s campaign was to bring industrial jobs lost because of NAFTA back to the US. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have called for new sanctions against North Korea. President Donald Trump called on the United Nations Security Council to accept a new resolution involving sanctions against North Korea on Friday. The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mun Dzse In, President of South Korea have also joined the resolution. The three leaders signed a joint declaration at the G20 summit in Hamburg. The South Korean President calls for dialogue to resolve the North Korean crisis. After discussing with President Putin, he also said that he believes that the Russian president could play a decisive role in reducing the current tensions. There was a full agreement at the G20 summit that Pyongyang’s missile attempts were very threatening and that the UN Security Council should give them the right answer. However, a tangible plan of action has not yet been made in this direction. President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, warned Trump about the dangers of protectionism and promised to respond with countermeasures if the US president imposes protective tariffs on steel exports. In the case of free trade, the circle of the top economic powers threatens to fall behind long-established achievements against isolationist policy because of President Trump’s nationalist “America-First” course. In the end, a usual compromise was presented, which is no wonder: the G20 summit, as tradition has already highlighted in its final document the efforts of all participants to free world trade. Nevertheless, one thing was new: now also trade barriers should be allowed, if they serve the fairness. Thus, “legitimate trade defense instruments” are permitted. The formulation is a concession to US President Donald Trump, who reserves protectionist measures to protect the US economy. In addition, the states have agreed on a “Hamburg action plan” for economic growth. They focus on flexible fiscal policy and structural reform. In order to achieve sustainable supply chains countries undertake to comply with labor, social and environmental standards. To put it short, the achievements of the summit itself could be summed up in following catchphrases: agreement as the only way against arbitrariness; struggle to find regulations against crises; and new approaches to development cooperation. As one can see a compromise can be found with difficulty: it is not about economic progress, but about avoiding the backward direction. It looks worse when it comes to climate protection. After hard negotiations, the experts of top politicians put Chancellor Merkel, President Trump, Russian President Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the others a formulation with a wording on the table, which makes a…

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  3. Zoltan Eperjesi 10 months ago

    Key questions are asked why the federal government has decided precisely for Hamburg as location for the summit, which is known not only for its openness to the world, but also for the left autonomous scene. Chancellor Merkel cannot put the whole responsibility on the shoulders of Hamburg’s mayor Olaf Scholz (SPD) because there was an overall concept about it. Besides the SPD as coalition partner may mistakes not to push to the chancellor alone: – precisely because there was an overall concept about the summit. However, the issue of violence and left-wing extremism is likely to play an important role in the coming election campaign in Germany. Only some weeks before the Bundestag elections, chancellor Merkel’s expectations that the G20 summit possibly will assure her politically neat backwind (like Heiligendamm shortly after her office as Chancellor and Elmau two years ago) could be proven wrong. Moreover, the states that will next host the G20 summit (2018 it is Argentina) may be more likely to be prepared on the hard line against demonstrations such as in China 2016 or in Turkey 2015 than on nonviolent opponents. The events are clearly showing that also the G20 needs correct match to the changing circumstances as the focus of the protests is on social injustice and the global imbalance. German chancellor’s sober summary: ‘The summit took place.’ If there was one winner at the G20, it was Europe. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s threat of swift retaliation against the U.S. if Trump imposed steel tariffs seemed to have reached its target as Washington backed down, for the moment at least. So is the whole G-20 mechanism redundant whatever the case may be? One could answer this with rather a big ‘yes’ as with no, but then again not one person needs to carry out violent actions to remind the public of that argument.

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  4. Zoltan Eperjesi 10 months ago

    This is a continuation of the first blog…
    After hard negotiations, the experts of top politicians put Chancellor Merkel, President Trump, Russian President Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the others a formulation with a wording on the table, which makes a unanimous signing of the summit communiqué possible, – but it also shows differences. Washington no longer supports the Paris Climate Protection Agreement. The most tangible result is probably an international fund for women in developing countries as approximately 300 million euros are made available for small credits with which women probably can start a business and thus escape poverty. The initiative supported by President Trumps’ daughter Ivanka and promoted by Chancellor Merkel is directed only at women. They should be independent of men, which the G20 countries trust less seriousness in dealing with money.
    During the G20 summit in Hamburg, globalization-critical, left-wing demonstrators tried to disturb the discussions by blockades, incendiarism and other violent actions by trying to enter the security area. The conclusion of the police and politics: nearly 500 officials were injured around the G20 summit and there were about 180 arrests. The targeted security could not be always guaranteed. On the one hand, the violent excesses of militant demonstrators in Hamburg overshadowed the G20 summit. On the other hand, the results of the Heads of State or Governments appear too small. The summit closes with a debacle for the German police forces as they have failed to ensure safety on the roads. All these events together just before the Bundestag elections could turn into a political problem for the SPD and Chancellor Angela Merkel. In light of this, the final declaration of the G20 summit seems to be as soft as butter. Thus, in the total sum of the messages, the G20 is not a decision-making body, a global disaster as rupture among global players is still averted at this first G20 summit under the German presidency. However, the images of the destruction caused by rioters in order-loving Germany remain forever. One remembers on another picture from the G7 summit in Bavarian Elmau (without Putin) as it was the reception of Merkel and the former US President Barack Obama with his arms outstretched and the whole team on a daisy field in front of the Alps. The G8 summit in Heiligendamm in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in 2007 also shows a more peaceful picture with the heads of state and government of the big industrialized countries (at that time with President Putin) in the beach basket. Hamburg remains primarily with chaotic images in the memory.

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