Thursday

18th Apr 2019

G20 must produce the goods, says EU

  • France has said it will leave the G20 meeting if discussions on financial regulation not meaningful (Photo: © European Community, 2008)

Prominent figures within the European Union have upped the ante with increasingly tough rhetoric as they prepare to negotiate solutions to the economic crisis at a meeting in London this Thursday (2 April).

"We are there for results," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told journalists in Brussels on Tuesday. "It is a question of now or never."

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"Someone said 'a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,' and I think it is a very good expression. This is a crisis, so we should use it to change what is wrong."

On the same day, French finance minister Christine Lagarde told British radio that France would walk away from the negotiations if "the deliverables are not there."

Her comments echo those of French President Nicholas Sarkozy who recently told French ministers: "If things don't move forward in London, it will be the empty chair. I will get up and leave," reports French daily Le Figaro.

French fears that the leaders from the Group of 20 industrial nations will backtrack on verbal commitments to improve global financial regulation are shared by Mr Barroso.

"Some of those who speak very often about the need for more effective regulation, afterwards when they have to agree on a precise proposal, they are not so ambitious," he said in reference to a recently agreed EU deal on regulation of the insurance sector.

He said the package agreed by EU ministers, known as Solvency II, had been significantly watered down from the original commission proposal.

However, Mr Barroso declined to say whether he would walk out with Mr Sarkozy if the debate turns into a talking shop while admitting that Thursday's meeting was unlikely to be the last of its kind.

G20 to become dominant forum?

"I think it would be useful to have another [G20] summit this year," said Mr Barroso. "I think the London summit should produce concrete results, but obviously it will be an ongoing process."

Already, leaders are jockeying to succeed Britain's Gordon Brown as the host of the next G20 meeting as they seek to boost their statesman-like credentials and portray themselves as international deal-brokers.

The inaugural G20 meeting of finance ministers took place in 1999 and has worked on a rotating basis since then. South Korea is due to hold the chair in 2010.

Upgrading the meeting to the level of heads of state and government appears to have thrown the cat amongst the pigeons however, with Italy, France, Japan and South Korea amongst countries reportedly vying to take over the chair of the next meeting.

Asked on Monday what the UK prime minister's reaction was regarding a suggestion that the Sardinian G8 summit in July could effectively become a G20 meeting, his spokesperson said that No.10 "would see merit in further meetings of the G20."

The response underlines the increasingly strong feeling in political circles that the G20 is the natural forum to resolve the world's problems as its members represent 80 percent of the world's GNP and two thirds of the world's population.

With so many disparate voices around the table however and an EU-US tug-of-war over whether economic stimulus or financial regulation should take preference still rumbling in the background, Mr Brown is likely to have his work cut out as he strives to secure a meaningful deal on Thursday.

Aware of this, Mr Barroso said his top priority for the meeting is "unity," stressing that G20 leaders needed to tackle a range of issues and not simply concentrate on one or the other.

As well as stimulus spending and financial regulation, global governance structures such as the International Monetary Fund and the Financial Stability Forum should be strengthened, he said.

Likewise, leaders must focus on rejecting protectionism and continuing the development agenda by meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets to improve the life of people in the world's poorest nations by 2015.

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