The G7 Summit: Hiding the dust under the carpet: Annika Savill in Munich bewails the increasing hollowness of stage-managed summits and the birth of another piece of diplomatic jargon

'THE most intelligent thing anyone can say about these summits,' said a senior European diplomat yesterday, 'is that they have no meaning whatsoever. Summits should be abolished.'

His was one of a growing number of private admissions that forums such as the G7 have become too unwieldy to produce any result other than declarations that have started sounding increasingly alike year after year. Even those declarations are not the result of seven world leaders sitting around a table in a Bavarian castle, but are cooked up weeks in advance by political directors and sherpas and sous-sherpas.

You might think, then, that the real substance is discussed in private bilaterals on the margins of this or any other summit. Presidents Bush and Mitterrand held such a bilateral over dinner on Sunday. It was their first meeting since January and since relations between their countries have plumbed increasingly abysmal depths on European defence.

The purpose of the meeting was to make clear whether Mr Mitterrand's pet project, the Franco-German Corps, which he hopes will become a European Corps, was in competition with Nato and intended to exclude America from the defence of Europe.

After the dinner, Mr Mitterrand's spokesman assembled reporters and announced that he would read out a prepared statement, and that he would not answer questions.

Two officials then arrived to brief reporters off the record. The talks had been, as always when the two leaders met, 'extraordinarily clear, precise, direct and frank'. The two had known each other since June 1981 after all. It had always struck the officials how the two Presidents were able to say to one another, 'This is my problem', or 'What did you have at the back of your mind when you did this?'

Out of Sunday's frank and clear exchange had emerged that 'no problem on European security is insurmountable while things are explained by both parties'. There were 'bad interpretations' of the Corps, such that its detractors accuse it of being incompatible with Nato. Where was the solution to be found, then? 'The solution was to be found,' said one of the officials, 'in the theme of complementarity.' From then on the briefing turned into one long eulogy of this word which most people have never heard, let alone would be able to pronounce easily. It means simply that things can be complementary.

If this rings a bell, it is because it is remarkably like the way in which Britain has started to extol another word ending in '-arity' to conceal differences with its partners during its presidency of the EC.

Complementarity, however, unlike subsidiarity, does earn a mention in British dictionaries. Chambers has the following: 'A concept first adopted in microphysics which accepts the existence of superficially inconsistent views of an object or phenomenon.' The term has recently cropped up in various Nato communiques, notably after the alliance's Copenhagen summit in May 1991.

'Like subsidiarity it's a horrible word,' said a European analyst. 'Like subsidiarity, it is one of those words simply intended to sweep differences under the carpet.' If this was the outcome of 'extraordinarily clear and precise' talks on the margins of the summit, perhaps these should be dispensed with altogether too. 'All that's been achieved is an agreement not to row in public.' And yet another horrible and meaningless word to keep track of.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test