G7 summit kicks off in Germany amid protests

Berlin, June 8 (IANS) The summit of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised countries kicked off on Sunday in Germany amid a heavy police presence and anti-G7 demonstrations.

Before the official start of the summit meetings, German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed US President Barack Obama in a small village close to the G7 venue of Schloss Elmau with a traditional Bavarian breakfast.

In their short addresses to local residents, both Merkel and Obama stressed the friendship between Germany and the US.

“Although we have some differences of opinion, the United States of America is our friend and a vital partner with whom we cooperate closely because it’s in our mutual interest,” Xinhua quoted Merkel as saying.

Obama hailed US-German ties and the “lasting friendship” between the German and the American people.

Merkel also welcomed other leaders of the G7 group ahead of the start of their talks.

The heads of state and government, as well as leaders from the European Union, held two working sessions on the first day of the summit, discussing issues from regulation and supervision of financial markets, combat tax avoidance and evasion to free trade agreements and international standards in supply chains.

Germany is hosting the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US for two days of talks in the German Bavarian alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Leaders of the world’s leading economies are expected to focus on economic, foreign and security topics as well as global environment and health issues.

To ensure the safety of the leaders, some 17,000 police officers are reportedly on duty in Bavaria during the summit, and a 16-km long wire fence has been erected around the G7 venue.

Anti-G7 demonstrations continued on Sunday in and around Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Protesters were sitting on the road leading to the luxury resort Elmau, trying to block the way to the meeting venue. Several were taken into custody by the police, according to media reports.

The G7, an informal forum for major industrialised nations to discuss global issues, has been facing a lot of criticism. Opponents say world leaders have repeatedly failed to take decisive actions on the most pressing global issues. The group is also accused of being “a self-interested group for the elite” and lacking of transparency.

“We are here because we want to get across the message to the G7 that the world outside is watching…We think they are not doing enough,” a protester said.

The “One” campaign, which calls for an end of extreme poverty in the world, has held a demonstration outside the G7 media centre, about 10 km from the Schloss Elmau, demanding that “we want more than hot air”.

“You know in English the expression ‘hot air’ can mean empty promises…when it’s all talks, and no action,” Adrian Lovett, the group’s Europe executive director said.

“We know that there will be a lot of words at this summit… That’s fine as long as there’s real action behind it. We are looking for more than ‘hot air’. We are looking for real action from this summit.” he added.

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