Genoa: Never again - future gatherings to be 'small, simple and sober'

What next for G8?
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The Independent Online

Despite massive and elaborate security precautions the G8 summit ends having been disrupted almost totally. Leaders of the world's richest nations are now left wondering whether they can ever again stage such a gathering.

Though all were at pains to stress that they managed to press on with business, they failed to focus attention on the issues that were supposed to be at the top of the agenda such as aid for Africa, a global health fund and climate change. Instead, the day was dominated by a debate on how to scale down G8 summits with calls for smaller more informal gatherings.

Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, took a sideswipe at the ever-increasing scale of the meetings and the massive delegations sent to Genoa by the big nations – without naming the biggest culprit, the US, which brought at least 300 official delegates to the Italian city.

"It is important that we meet in a much more simple and sober way," Mr Prodi told journalists. He added: "I don't think that delegations of hundreds of people are necessary. The EU delegation is less than 15 delegates and we could probably have done with a couple of people less."

Jean Chrétien, the Canadian Premier who will host the next G8 summit, also said the gatherings had become overblown and that the events should be "smaller" and "more informal". The Japan-ese delegation at Genoa was said to number 84, while Britain took 30 officials.

There was no disguising the impact of the violence on the G8 leaders, who had been "traumatised" by the clashes with police, the French President, Jacques Chirac, said.

He argued that leaders have to find a way to address the problems that brought thousands of protesters to Genoa. President Bush said he was "very concerned about the violence, the tragic loss of life that occurred". But while also regretting the "tragedy", Tony Blair insisted that it was "important as well ... to realise that the work that the summit is doing is important work".

The continuing controversy overshadowed a new partnership initiative with Africa, pioneered by Mr Blair, which will involve a pact with 8-10 reforming African governments. They will agree to focus on several issues including democracy, the fight against corruption and the need for private investment.