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
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments