G7 ITALY 2024, APULIA SUMMIT
The G7 will mark its 50th anniversary this year when Italy hosts the Summit on June 13-15th in Apulia, southern Italy. In line with the common values of freedom and democracy that underpin the G7 states, Italy aims to focus on defending the rules-based liberal international system and promoting cooperation in the Global South. This is all focused on addressing the current global challenges. Italy’s top priorities are the ongoing war in Ukraine, the conflict in the Middle East, and their consequences for the international system and global agenda. Italy also seeks to strengthen the G7’s relationships with developing states and emerging economies by promoting models of mutually beneficial cooperation instead of “paternalistic and predatory logics”. Particular attention will be given to Africa and the Indo-Pacific Region which relates to the G7’s ongoing concerns with Russia and China. Italy has highlighted migration, the climate-energy nexus, and food security. These are all important issues and Italy aims to steer the Group’s work towards innovative solutions. Artificial intelligence (AI) also remains a major agenda item as the G7 seeks to keep pace with the evolution of digital technologies and ensure their governance is in line with democratic values and that technology works for people.
Diversifying and de-risking partnerships: China is a major factor in the G7’s emphasis on deepening partnerships with emerging economies and developing states. In the Hiroshima Summit Communiqué, the G7 stated that it would not be decoupling from China, but that it would still stand by its values of free and fair trade as part of the rules-based multilateral trading system. To uphold these values, the G7 is focused on building resilient global supply chains through strategic partnerships in developing states that will achieve de-risking and diversifying its global trade. This builds on the commitments made at the Hiroshima Summit the previous year, which included mobilising up to $600 billion in financing for infrastructure through the G7 Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII).
Widening development agenda: the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing climate crisis, and the ongoing war in Ukraine has diverted attention away from broader development objectives and strained commitments from traditional international donors. This had increased the G7’s attention on the development agenda in recent years, compounded by its need for diversification in global supply chains. Financing for sustainable development, particularly in debt restructuring and reform of the international financial architecture and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), has featured on the G7’s development agenda and will likely continue to do so under Italy’s Presidency.
Development cooperation in Africa is driven by Italy’s own domestic concerns, particularly migration and energy. In its foreign policy agenda, Prime Minster Meloni launched a flagship proposal for cooperation in Africa, the Mattei Plan, named after the founder of a state-owned oil and gas supplier, Eni. This plan aims to turn Italy into a major energy hub and tackle migration by addressing its root economic causes in Africa. Italy’s turn to Africa has been demonstrated in Meloni’s numerous visits to North Africa, including Algeria for her first bilateral visit abroad, followed by a high-level meetings with Libyan and Tunisian government officials. On the energy front, Italy seeks to become a major distributor of gas from North Africa and the Mediterranean to the rest of Europe, replicating its own success with reducing its dependence on Russian gas. Italy’s cooperation with Africa involves supporting development in the areas of education, exports, infrastructure, health, and sustainable exploitation of natural resources, although there is a concern that its driving aim is to curb irregular migration to Italy. Migration rates continue to increase, despite Meloni’s promise to reduce flows in her election campaign. In 2023, the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Italy was double that of 2022 figures. Many irregular migrants from Guinea, Ivory Coast, Egypt, and Tunisia weather dangerous seas after departing from Tunisia and Libya before arriving to Lampedusa. Italy recently hosted the Italy-Africa Summit at the end of January 2024, where it officially launched the Mattei Plan. While Meloni had framed the plan as an “approach of equals”, it was received with scepticism from some African leaders who criticised Italy for not consulting them in the formulation of the plan.
Food security is another major priority. The Italian Presidency will launch the Apulia Food Security Initiative at the Leaders’ Summit in June to address the food-climate nexus and boost G7 commitments to sustainable food systems, stated Gaimpaolo Cutillo, Deputy Director General/Principal Director for Global Issues and G7/G20 Processes, at the Inception Conference for Think7 Italy 2024
Climate change: the G7 has linked it’s just energy transitions and decarbonisation interests with its de-risking strategy by positioning members states as preferred partners and donors for developing states through initiatives such as: the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative; and the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII). Decarbonisation has been underpinned by the G7’s interest in moving away from its dependency on Russia..
Italy will also include Africa in the climate change conversation by focusing on its green energy potentials. The Italian Presidency sees energy as “the indispensable fuel for economic growth which, in turn, is the only answer to all the other problems – instability, poverty, migration,” as stated by Gaimpaolo Cutillo at the Inception Conference for Think7 Italy 2024. Italy intends to direct financing to address Africa’s green energy infrastructure gap, which includes wind farms, solar power plants, power grids so that it can produce energy and export surplus to Europe.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): Italy is concerned with the risks of AI posed to privacy, freedom of speech, and job security. While many regional and national actors are working on regulation regarding AI such as the UNESCO, and the EU, the G7 aims to shape this space by building on the Hiroshima AI Process with a toolkit that will further establish ethical rules for the design, development, and branding of algorithms.
Strengthening the rules based international system: Tensions between major powers of China and the US, and the West and Russia, have marked international relations in recent years, which has undermined collective action on pressing existential issues and hindered recovery coming out of the global pandemic. According to Cutillo, Italy aims to use its Presidency of G7 to work to mend bridges in the global system. Italy intends to use the values, clout, and means of the Group to persuade its rivals that that cooperation is better than competition. To achieve this, Italy will look to deepen its engagement with the G20 and beyond to return to a rules-based international system.
Italy takes over the G7 Presidency at a time where geopolitical tensions continue to challenge the broader liberal international order. The G7’s relevance has been questioned in recent years as industrial manufacturing has moved east, and new emerging economies begin to play a bigger role in global economic affairs. Playing to ideological blocs will be counterproductive to addressing broader collective socio-economic goals, which have already been undercut by the pandemic and war in Ukraine. Italy’s approach to building partnerships with developing states, particularly the African continent, provides an opportunity to turn the G7’s values of free trade and open societies into new partnerships.