G7 Summit: Honest John hankers for less magnificent 7

CARLO Azeglio Ciampi, the host of next year's G7 summit, told John Major he wants to hold the event on an island surrounded by crocodiles. Mr Major agreed that he, too, felt 'oppressed' by this year's presence of 11,000 journalists. All seven leaders were unable to tell each other how many people were in their own delegations, confessed they had not met the majority of them, and knew still less what they did. But by and large, Mr Major has met with little success in his proposals to scale down the annual meeting of the world's seven richest democracies.

When Mr Major prepared to make a lengthy intervention on this, his pet G7 project, at yesterday's closed session, the Japanese leader, Kiichi Miyazawa, tried to get the issue off the agenda by saying there was more important business to attend to. This year's hosts have no desire to scale down the one high-profile forum in which they occupy a place, pending their permanent membership of the UN Security Council. The Prime Minister none the less persevered to make his five points: by next year, the summit format should return to heads of state and government only; it should be reduced from three days to two (with the posssiblity of an added day for appearances by the President of Russia); there should be one annotated agenda rather than the multitude of position papers and communiques prepared up to 11 months in advance; the sherpas, sous- sherpas and sous-sous-sherpas whose job it is to prepare them should be reduced in number; and, in an optimistic effort to 'minimise the presence of the press', the summit should be held away from capitals.

The first point, that foreign and finance ministers should no longer attend, met with swift resistance from Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Francois Mitterrand. Both now have coalition governments to consider, which must be represented to keep the peace. Mr Mitterrand, moreover, who at 76 feels no need to read the innumerable position papers which Mr Major stays up half the night to master, made it clear that he requires two ministers of whatever denomination by his side to keep abreast of the issues for him. The President of the Republic complained yesterday: 'All this terminology is the best way to drown the fish.'

The Germans also resisted the reduction to two days, presumably in the hope of an early inclusion of Russia on a permanent basis to make a G8 (which Britain opposes). Given that officials such as sherpas need to be kept employed, the next two suggestions also fell by the wayside. The last request, to hold the summit out of the capital, will in fact be met next year: Mr Ciampi has chosen Naples, which does have some islands near by but not many crocodiles. But then the Italians had always planned to stage the event outside Rome.

A G7 foreign minister told reporters: 'For people who lead busy lives, there may be some good in everybody meeting once a year to exchange views. But what the G7 is not is a directorate of the world to which people can bring their problems, President Yeltsin being the one exception.' Alain Juppe, the French Foreign Minister, concurred: 'It must not be a political directorate of the world, a super-Security Council.'

Easier said than done. The next day, G7 leaders were busy responding to a petition from President Eduard Shevardnadze, who had written to them about the problems of Georgia. The Gaullist Mr Juppe seems to share Britain's sceptical view of the expectations raised by summits in general. He said of President Bill Clinton's call for an extra G7 meeting to discuss employment: 'To say what? To do what? It is not G7 leaders sitting around in a meeting that will resolve unemployment. We talked about it at the Copenhagen summit, and I haven't seen unemployment figures change since.' Funny that. At last year's G7, when Mr Juppe's Socialist predecessors asked Mr Major to discuss unemployment, it was the latter who responded: 'What for, if we can't do anything about it?' Unlike Mr Juppe yesterday, he did not say it in public. Yet with this week's 'breakthrough' on world trade, Mr Major was only too happy to discuss jobs, in public, till kingdom come.

For the record: when a Major aide was asked the size of his own delegation, he said: 'We have the smallest delegation by quite a large margin, but we've been trying to find out the exact size for three days. The last person we cut must have been the person in charge of counting the delegation.'

(Photograph omitted)

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little