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Key elements of the international system

54 - European policy in the G8, G20, IMF and WTO

Grade: B-
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 4/10
Total 12/20
Scorecard 2012: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2014: B+ (15/20)

Europeans used the G7 and G20 as platforms to criticise Russia over Ukraine, but with little impact.

Both the G7/8 and the G20 were overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis. Russia had been slated to host the G8 in 2014, but Western members of the group suspended preparatory talks during the Crimea crisis. In late March G7 leaders announced that they would boycott Sochi and meet in Brussels in early June without Vladimir Putin (even if he did attend D-Day celebrations with EU leaders straight afterwards).

EU members appeared divided over how hard a line to take against Russia through the G7. In April the G7 declared joint targeted sanctions against Russian officials. But Italy and Germany opposed authorising additional punitive measures at the Brussels summit, which instead made a general plea for peace. Nonetheless, the G7 did agree further sanctions against Russia in coordination with the EU later in the summer. Although these steps have failed to really shape the conflict, the G7 has been a useful coordination mechanism.

European leaders also used November’s G20 summit in Australia as an opportunity to criticise Putin to his face, although non-Western members of the group did not join in. Putin left Australia early. Indicating mounting European frustration, Angela Merkel made some of her firmest comments on Russia while in Australia. But, again, the G20 provided only a useful diplomatic platform to communicate Western and European concerns over the crisis, without delivering concrete results.

The Australian G20 did make progress on economic discussions, although the group is still far from its crisis-era peak. Europe and the US succeeded in persuading climate-sceptic Australia to include firm references to climate change in the summit outcome.

The most important factor in Europe’s relations with the Bretton Woods institutions continues to be the IMF’s role in the continent’s bailout regimes. Greece failed to free itself from IMF-EU oversight during the year, fostering political uncertainty. As 2014 wore on, the IMF sounded alarms about the state of the European economy.