Further to Alex’s grovel below, it’s time for me to clarify my position on Italy’s place in the G8. Yes, I was the one named source in the Guardian’s piece entitled “Calls grow within G8 to expel Italy as summit plans descend into chaos”, reproduced in almost every Italian newspaper and then some. Yes, I called the Italian preparations for the G8 a “gigantic fudge” – ably translated “una buffonata colossale” by Corriere Della Sera. And, yes my boss Bruce Jones then gave a series of quotes broadly backing me.
However, let’s get one thing clear: neither Bruce nor I have at any point advocated chucking Italy out of the G8. I for one think that it is a silly idea.
Sure, preparations for L’Aquila haven’t gone great. But almost all G8 planning processes are a mess – some hosts just get luckier with the outcome documents than others. The question of whether Italy should be there or not is a total distraction. The real question is not which Europeans are at the G8 or G20, but how well they coordinate there. As Bruce and I note in today’s European Voice, the record is mixed:
Europeans frequently fail to use their influence efficiently. The run-up to the London G20 summit was enlivened by intra-European spats, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatening to walk out if France’s interests were not satisfied. There was little real co-operation between the UK diplomats planning the G20 and their Italian counterparts on the G8.
Italian officials indicated that they would shape the G8 agenda to meet any requests from the Obama administration, but US officials complain that what they really want from the Europeans is some coherence – to allow more time bargaining with the Chinese and Indians, and to spend less time having to worry whether the Dutch or Italians [sorry Italians!] are on side.
What to do? We have a plan:
France will be Europe’s next G8 hosts, in 2011. It should start co-ordinating within the EU and with the Canadians, who host the 2010 G8, and the Americans, who take the reins in 2012, on how to deliver sleek, workmanlike summits that include China, India and other emerging powers as full partners – rather repeat the confusions of L’Aquila.
So there, we are constructive, nice people after all. And pro-Italian. I celebrated my new-found notoriety at the excellent Sorella on the Lower East Side. Go there, New York-based readers and have the pate de fegato: