The international response to the Paris attacks and the refugee crisis will be top of the agendaby / November 14, 2015 / Leave a comment
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the most deadly violence to strike France since World War Two, international leaders are convening on Sunday and Monday for the G20 summit in Turkey. The meeting, whose agenda will now include the attacks and their aftermath, will also focus on the migration crisis in the Middle East and Europe, and could become one of the most important G20 summits since the April 2009 meeting in London during the storm of the international financial crisis.
Presidents and prime ministers will be in attendance from the United States, China (which assumes the G20 chair in 2016), India, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, Russia, Brazil, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Argentina, Mexico, and the European Union (EU). Collectively, these powers account for some 90 per cent of global GDP, 80 per cent of world trade, and around 66 per cent of global population.
The Paris attacks inevitably mean that terrorism and security will move onto the G20 agenda following the multiple tragedies in France, and the declaration by President Francois Hollande of a nation-wide “state of emergency” after “unprecedented” atrocities that have killed at least 120 people, with 87 reported dead at the Bataclan concert venue alone, and some 300 people injured, 80 of them seriously. Given the scale of the tragedy, which Hollande has called an “act of war,” world leaders have already pledged their support to the French authorities who remain on crisis-alert with 1,500 extra military personnel now stationed across Paris.
Eight terrorists are confirmed dead, seven of them by detonating suicide belts, and police are still looking for accomplices. It is reported that a Syrian passport was found with the body of one of these suicide attackers, and Islamic State has declared responsibility for the atrocities, which Hollande said were “planned outside [France], with outside involvement which an investigation will seek to establish”
The G20 will also discuss the migration crisis, with Turkey occupying centre stage here having already taken in some 2m refugees from the Middle East, mainly from Syria and Iraq. For the European Union too, which has also seen half a million refugees this year cross its borders, including from sub-Saharan Africa and states such as Afghanistan, the scale of the challenge is one of the biggest for decades, threatening the integrity of the 28 member bloc’s open border Schengen scheme.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has even warned of the possibility of major disorder in the Balkan states if her own country were to shut down its borders to refugees, as some of her coalition government partners have mooted. Earlier this month she referenced the troubles of the Balkans in the Nineties asserting that she does “not want military conflicts to be necessary there again.”
There will be calls at the summit for greater aid from a wider spread of G20 states given what the EU asserts is the “global nature” of the problem. Meanwhile, EU leaders will be doubling-down on their diplomacy with Turkey to offer even greater incentives, including the possibility of progress in its bid to join the EU, in exchange for Ankara agreeing to re-settle the bulk of the refugees currently within its borders, rather than them travelling onto Europe.
A second humanitarian agenda item will centre around a final collective push toward a new global climate treaty next month at the UN’s landmark Paris Summit. Moreover, the G20 will also call for implementation of the UN’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development agreed in September.
On the economic front, the G20 meeting also has a sizeable itinerary. The standout item is the move toward a more transparent global tax regime applying to firms with revenues of hundreds of millions of dollars, to help try prevent tax evasion and illegal funds flows. There is also G20 action mooted on excessive or harmful tax competition, and exchange of information on cross-border tax rulings to enhance transparency. This is an area where the EU has shown leadership recently with its June Action Plan on Corporate Taxation, and its March proposal on exchange of information on cross-border rulings.
The collective importance of the agenda in Turkey makes this potentially one of the most important G20 meetings since it was upgraded in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, from a finance minister body to one where heads of state now meet. That move was greeted with considerable fanfare, including from then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy who asserted that “the G20 foreshadows the planetary governance of the 21st century.”
However, the forum has failed so far to realise the full scale of the ambition thrust upon it almost a decade ago. In part, this is because the G20 meetings have no formal mechanisms to ensure enforcement of agreements by world leaders. While it might not have lived up to initial expectations, the G20 continues to be a forum prized by its members and the shocking Paris attacks will bring renewed attention to this latest meeting. With China assuming the chair next year, the international prominence given to the organisation is only likely to grow in 2016.