By Guy Dinmore and George Parker in L’Aquila, July 10, 2009
From scandal-plagued playboy to international statesman, Silvio Berlusconi’s gamble to host the G8 summit in the quake-torn town of L’Aquila has silenced his critics and soothed his allies, at least for the moment.
For the 72-year-old billionaire prime minister, the three-day summit of 40 heads of government and international organisations concluding yesterday was as much a success for what did not happen.
Aides were visibly relieved that none of their worst fears materialised — no aftershocks from the April 6 quake disturbed proceedings; no prosecutors announced investigations into well publicised allegations that prostitutes were procured last year for his lavish parties; and no reporter, Italian or otherwise, had the temerity to ask Mr Berlusconi about his sleeping habits. Read more…
By Guy Dinmore and Giulia Segreti in L’Aquila, published on FT on July 10, 2009
World leaders on Friday pledged to commit $20bn over three years for a “food security initiative” to develop agriculture in poorest countries, but aid agencies responded with scepticism, pointing to a chain of broken promises and a habit of switching around existing budgets.
The G8 summit of rich countries in L’Aquila, central Italy, had aimed to pledge $15bn. Ministers described how a last whip-round before delegations left came up with an extra $5bn to make a bigger headline figure.
“There is an urgent need for decisive action to free humankind from hunger and poverty,” said a joint statement of 40 heads of government and international organisations convened by the G8. Read more…
by Guy Dinmore in L’Aquila, July 10, 2009
Leaders of the G8 club of rich countries were joined on Friday morning by heads of African governments and international institutions to finalise a multi-billion dollar food security fund for agriculture.
The final day of the three-day G8 summit in L’Aquila, central Italy, was expected to conclude with a declaration on food security and pledges totalling some $15bn over three years.
Leaders of the world’s 16 biggest polluting countries last night failed to agree on targets and funding to cut greenhouse gases, setting the stage for recriminations between rich and poor nations and jeopardising the outcome of the key UN climate summit set for December.
A sombre Barack Obama, US president who chaired the meeting of the Major Economies Forum in Italy, said he acknowledged that progess would not be easy and that it would be “no small task” to bridge the differences.
By Guy Dinmore in L’Aquila, July 9, 2009
G8 leaders on Wednesday night agreed to give Iran more time to accept negotiations over its nuclear ambitions after Russia reiterated it would not support further sanctions at this point.
A statement issued after the dinner meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, expressed “serious concern” over events in Iran, deplored violence against peaceful demonstrators and, in a reference to the detention of Iranians working for the UK embassy in Tehran, called on the Iranian authorities to stop the intimidation of foreign missions. Read more…
Group of Eight leaders were divided last night on whether to take a tough approach on Iran’s crackdown on opposition protesters, weighing the risk of jeopardising possible talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
At issue was whether the leaders would make a united condemnation of Iran. But diplomats said the heads of government were unlikely to move further than a statement issued by their foreign ministers in mid-June, which deplored the violence in Iran and expressed “solidarity” with peaceful demonstrators contesting the results of the presidential elections. Read more…
“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF, told a news conference more than once after lunch at the G8 summit, expressing his concerns that world leaders had to start thinking seriously about their “exit strategy” after massive fiscal stimulus packages.
Asked by the FT who had paid for his lunch, Mr Strauss-Kahn replied. “Probably you”.
But he defended these ever more frequent gatherings of world leaders — in April in London, this week in L’Aquila
and then next to Pittsburgh in September.
“Globalisation is not just a topic for FT editorial pages,” he added.
But he also expressed the view that the days of the G8 were numbered as it evolved into something bigger and broader.
By Guy Dinmore in L’Aquila and Marco Pasqua in Rome
Whenever G8 leaders gather for their annual talks, an elaborate ritual unfolds to ensure the conversations within this elite club are kept confidential.
There will be no recording or note-taking of their deliberations, and each head of government is accompanied by just one aide – the “Sherpa” – who is allowed to communicate with those outside the closed room only through a digital pen. Their huddle is projected on a video to aides outside the conference room, without sound. Their mouths are digitally blacked out.
It is a process that has been respected each year – only once, in St Petersburg in 2006, when a microphone picked up an exchange between the then US President George W. Bush and Tony Blair, British prime minister,
has part of their conversation leaked out – and the Italian presidency insists there is no change in procedure this time.
But the Financial Times has learned from a senior official, who requests anonymity, that Italian aides did listen to yesterday’s proceedings through headphones from nearby rooms. A document obtained by the FT, written earlier by a member of the organising team, urged discretion. “Pay attention not to tell the other delegations about
our facility, otherwise they will all want it and that is not possible.” Read more…
Silvio Berlusconi was beaming by the end of the day, clearly relieved that the summit was going well and that world leaders had greeted him as an old friend. Gordon Brown even gave him a hug.
“This day has been payback for all the bitterness I have been through,” the prime minister said, cited by Agi news agency, referring to the “absurd attacks” on him in the media over his controversial private life of parties attended by call girls. “These days encourage me to go on,” he added.
“I am proud to have accomplished almost a miracle,” he was quoted as saying by Apicom.
Rumours were rife among Italian reporters that Mr Berlusconi would not deliver the press conference he had committed to because he was afraid of more questioning about his private life from the foreign media contingent. Aides suggested he might be too busy.
But in the end he spoke to a packed audience, delivering a resounding speech on the accomplishments of the day. Finishing with a flourish, he looked down and said “Questions?” and before anyone could even mutter the world “scandal”, he thanked everyone and walked off.
July 8th, 2009 12:21pm
by Guy Dinmore
Barack Obama has landed in Rome, as has Gordon Brown, before moving on to the summit venue in the Apennine mountains of the Abruzzo region. Germany’s Angela Merkel is the first to get a guided tour of some of L’Aquila’s quake-ruined settlements, accompanied by Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister.
The US president immediately delivers what the embattled premier needs, a strong declaration of confidence in Italy’s leadership of the G8 summit. Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, says it is “unthinkable” that Italy would lose its place in the rich nations club, contrary to what London’s Guardian newspaper would suggest. Read more…