Introducing the G7
The Group of Seven, or G7, is an informal gathering of the world's seven most advanced industrial economies. Its members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Because the G7 is not an organisation in its own right with its own management or permanent representative, its presidency – which generally rotates between the members on an annual basis – plays a prominent role. The presidency is charged with organising and setting the agenda of summits and additional meetings. Germany's G7 presidency runs from 1 July 2014 until the end of 2015.
The G7 heads of state or government convene once a year at a summit. Their regular confidential meetings provide a forum for exchanging views and opinions and coordinating joint positions on global policy issues, particularly in the areas of the global economy, foreign and security policy, development and the climate. People known as "sherpas" – chief negotiators of the governments – play a major role in preparing the annual summit by setting the summit agenda. Under Germany's presidency, this summit will be held on 7/8 June at Schloss Elmau.
Meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors
The meetings of the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors take place several times a year, usually on the margins of the spring and annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or of G20 meetings. Additionally, meetings are held in the country holding the presidency. These are also attended by representatives of the European Central Bank, the IMF, the World Bank, the Financial Stability Board and the European Union. These gatherings serve as a forum for the informal exchange of views and opinions on long-term questions of international fiscal and monetary policy as well as current challenges in this field. While Germany holds the presidency, the meetings of the finance ministers and central bank governors are chaired by Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann and Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.
Long tradition of consultation
The roots of the G7 date back to the year 1967, when finance ministers from the United States and major European countries discussed interest rate policy matters at Chequers in the UK. Following the collapse of the system of fixed exchange rates in 1973, it became the norm for meetings to be held by the finance ministers and central bank governors of the "Group of Five" countries (United States, Germany, France, United Kingdom and Japan). On the initiative of French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, these meetings were also held at the highest political levels, starting with the first economic summit held in Rambouillet in France in 1975. Italy and Canada joined the Group of Five in 1986 to form the G7.
The addition of Russia in 2008 created the Group of Eight (G8), although the meetings of the finance ministers and central bank governors continue to be held in the G7 format. The rotating G8 presidency was assumed by Russia at the beginning of 2014, and it was originally planned for the G8 summit to be held in Sochi on 4/5 June 2014. However, owing to Russia's violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the G7 heads of state or government decided on 24 March 2014 to suspend their participation in the G8 for the time being, until Russia changes course and an environment is restored in which the G8 is able to have meaningful discussion. This is why they are continuing their consultations in the G7 format.
All members of the G7 are also part of the G20. This forum for international economic cooperation additionally includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey. The European Union is also represented in this gathering. The G20 came about at the initiative of the G7: in response to the financial crisis in Asia in the 1990s, the G7 finance ministers decided in 1999 to set up a G20 comprising the finance ministers and central bank heads of the most important industrial countries and emerging market economies. Its inaugural meeting was held in Berlin in the same year. In autumn 2008, the heads of state or government of the G20 countries resolved to use the format for dialogue on the global financial and economic crisis.