At the German presidency of the G20’s Think 20 Summit, experts agreed that the gap between Europe and the United States is widening and that there remains a desire for international cooperation. EURACTIV Germany reports.
“The Germans are bad, really bad.” US President Donald Trump’s appraisal of the Bundesrepublik will probably linger long in the memories of the country’s citizens.
It was one of the highlights of a series of blunders and political attacks made by Trump during a whirlwind European visit last week.
During the course of the G7 summit in Italy, many of his fellow leaders gave up on the idea of trying to contain his unpredictability through professional advice and counsel.
The Think 20 Summit, a conference of G20 think tanks that started yesterday (29 May) in Berlin, reflected this current state of international affairs. The central theme of the ongoing meeting is the future of international cooperation during Trump’s presidency.
Despite recent efforts in Washington, as well as London, to make foreign policy primarily a national issue, the majority of researchers, politicians and international organisation representatives agreed that multilateralism is the way forward.
According to centre-right EPP MEP Viviane Reding, these isolationist tendencies could actually unleash a new dynamic in international cooperation. Brexit has acted as a sort of wake-up call for Europe, whose governments and people have started to “bundle their energies” in order to shore up the continent.
“Thanks to Brexit, things are going better in Europe,” the former European Commission vice-president insisted.
Reding’s UK example could be extended to last weekend’s G7 summit though, where instead of neutralising differences between Trump’s administration and the rest on climate and trade policy, the summit risked failing altogether.
One main bone of contention was US involvement in the Paris climate deal, a decision on which will be made this week, Trump claims. Vague mentions of tackling protectionism in the final declaration also did little to add to the summit’s success.
Angela Merkel’s subsequent insistence that Europe will now have to take its fate into its own hands sparked international attention and analysis. Reding added that “Merkel is right”.
“Some countries are more equal than others”
But a plea for international cooperation to continue, even without the US, was not backed unconditionally by all involved at the T20 summit.
Argentine diplomat Jorge Argüello, representing Fundación Embajada Abierta, warned that “in the G20, there is a gap between the G7 and the rest. There are those that make the rules and those that accept them.”
The emerging countries belong to the second group so it is increasingly important to come up with an agenda that protects their interests.
Argüello also pointed to the growing scepticism about globalisation and social conditions: “fewer and fewer people are aware of the benefits of globalisation. International institutions and treaties have increasingly departed from the interests of the people.”
The South African Institute for International Affairs’ Elizabeth Sidiropoulos called for international cooperation to continue but for it not to be a question of ‘business as usual’.
She acknowledged that “the G20 is a model for multilateral cooperation” but that “some members (of the G20) are more equal than others”.