Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Christine Neuhold
Chapter 13: Informal Governance and the G8
Sieglinde Gstöhl INTRODUCTION: THE G8 MATTERS, BUT HOW? The Group of Eight (G8) is an informal grouping of leading industrialized countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States). Its origins date back to the crisis meetings of the American, British, French, German and Japanese finance ministers in the early 1970s, which the press had referred to as the Group of Five (or G5). Upon the initiative of the former finance ministers Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Helmut Schmidt – who had both become leader of their country – this type of informal meeting was then also held by the heads of state and government. Summit meetings provide an opportunity for political leaders to personally get to know their counterparts, to increase their prestige, to set the international agenda or to attain political breakthroughs due to the possibility of issue linkages and broad bargains for problems that have defied solution by lower-level government officials. Italy was invited to the first ‘G6 summit’ in 1975, and one year later, Canada joined the G7. In 1977, the European Community – represented by the Commission and the country holding the Council presidency – began to participate in the G7 but without chairing the Group. The Russian Federation was first present in 1994; in 1998 it became a formal member of the ‘political G8’ and in 2006 it obtained full membership, hosting its first summit. Yet finance ministers’ and central bank governors continue to gather in the composition of the G7, and...
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