Those who look for symbolism as a guide to events might like to note that ‘Evian’ spelled backwards is ‘Naive’. Whilst I would never suggest that that is anything except concidental I do reckon that even a casual observer of the latest G8 conference in that Southern French town would have noticed that idealism (to the extent that it ever existed at all) has given way to thorny realpolitik.
No amount of mutual backslapping and bonhomie can disguise the fact that this latest conference was little more than a cosmetic exercise in alleged unity of purpose where none, in fact, exists. Quite aside from the fact that US-EU tensions are hardly going to be settled by a couple of days of diplomatic chinwagging in the Alps, the early exit of George Bush illustrates pretty effectively where he feels his priorities lie:
President George W Bush was not present for the summit’s final session on Tuesday, having left the previous day on the Middle Eastern leg of his foreign tour.
Nothing could illustrate more clearly that the Americans regard the Middle-East as a more pressing concern than the latest round of plaintiff appeals for ‘international somethingorother’ from the likes of Chirac and Shroeder. The former demands attention, the latter can be safely stacked in the pending tray.
But even aside from that, there are cracks which just cannot be papered over with reams of polite communiques. Even a left-of-centre and devoutly internationalist British PM is pressing for a different worldview than the one assiduously promoted from Paris. The result will be no single worldview at all.
I suspect that this G8 malarkey has had its day and not because of the travelling circus of the ‘Great Unwashed’ wreaking havoc and gutting town-centres in its wake, but rather because the reasons for its inception just no longer hold true. This annual round of global group-hugging was only important when it was felt (perhaps not unreasonably) that the interests of the world’s great industrial powers were converging. They are not converging any longer and, if anything, they are diverging. This is not so much globalisation as polarisation.
This will likely not be the last G8 summit. There will probably be more in the future. But I suspect we have seen the last meaningful one and that the summits of tomorrow will be prove to be nothing more than an exercise in formality and politeness where the delegates exchange chit-chat whilst waiting for something bigger and more exciting to come along.