New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is currently in the French coastal town of Biarritz to attend the ongoing Group of Seven (G7) Summit.
Modi is among nine other leaders attending the summit from countries that are not part of the informal grouping of seven advanced economies. The G7 member states comprise France, Italy, Canada, Japan, Germany, the US, and the UK.
This year, France and current G7 President Emmanuel Macron has also invited India, South Africa, Australia, Chile, Egypt, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Spain to participate.
The G7 annual summits are meetings designed to be attended only by the heads of government from the seven permanent member states and two leaders of the European Union (presidents of the Commission and the Council).
Inviting other non-G7 leaders to attend the annual summit has been a recurring feature over the past few years. These invitations are extended by the immediate G7 president and reflect the strategic interests of the host country.
ThePrint details the importance of these invited-nation states for the G7 and its agenda.
‘Strengthening democracy’ across the globe
When G7 was formed in 1975 — initially it was G6, and Canada joined a year later — its core agenda was to strengthen free-market democracies against Soviet Union’s communism.
The Soviet Union’s communist threat was eliminated in 1989, but the recent rise in democratic authoritarianism, nationalism and populism has prompted Emmanuel Macron to make “strengthening democracy” a key agenda this year.
In times of massive “digital transformation and climate change”, France was keen to include more like-minded and democratic partners at this year’s G7. With this idea in view, four democracies — India, South Africa, Chile and Australia — have been invited to attend the Biarritz G7 this year.
“With these four major democracies, we will work to strengthen the protection of fundamental freedoms at a time when digital technology and artificial intelligence are developing. We will propose tangible measures to protect the planet, focusing on protection of biodiversity, the climate and the oceans,” noted a June statement by Elysee, the French president’s office.
“Chile, which will be hosting COP25 in December 2019, will be a key ally in this context,” added the statement.
Macron’s African outreach
Another key aspect of Emmanuel Macron’s G7 presidency was his “African outreach” programme. According to the statement released by Elysee, African countries play a central role in the global fight against inequality.
In view of this, four African countries have been invited to attend this year’s G7 summit — Burkina Faso, Egypt, Senegal and Rwanda. In addition, the president of the African Union, Moussa Faki, has also been invited to this year’s summit. Faki is the former prime minister of Chad.
The other African country to be invited is South Africa. It has been invited both for its democratic credentials and its role in the African Union.
The leaders of these particular invited-states hold important additional positions in context of governance and development in Africa.
Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore is chairing the 2019 Sahel G5 summit. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is currently chairing the African Union. Senegal’s President Macky Sall is chairing the state or government orientation committee of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (African Union development agency NEPAD). And Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame chaired the African Union in 2018.
“Together, we want to find effective tools to ensure sustainable economic development in Africa, fostering the creation of jobs for young people and women’s entrepreneurship,” said the Elysee statement.
In addition, the “African Outreach” would also include discussions over access to health, education, and finance — especially in the Sahel region.
Special invitees to G7 — not a new phenomenon
Emmanuel Macron has used his G7 presidency to present this year’s Biarritz summit as a new and transformed format to conduct the annual meet. He has done so by arguing that more democratic and African countries are central to having meaningful discussions about his democracy and equality agenda.
However, this is far from a new phenomenon.
If one looks at the previous G7 summits, inviting more countries to attend the summit has been a recurring phenomenon. Moreover, the countries which receive the invitation reflect the strategic interests of the hosting country.
For instance, Canada hosted the 2018 summit and extended invitations to ‘Americas’ countries such as Argentina, Jamaica and Haiti. The 2017 summit was organised by Italy and being a Mediterranean power, it invited North African countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Niger.
In 2016, Japan hosted the summit and extended invitations to mostly Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The only non-Asian country to receive an invitation was Chad.