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Taormina Summit: What Experience Makes a Host Produce a Successful Summit?

Alessandra Cicci and John Kirton, G7 Research Group
June 9, 2017

The 43rd G7 summit, held in Taormina, Italy, was one of the most challenging summits for the club as the leaders gathered to discuss the world's most pressing issues and possible action the G7 could take. This year's summit in particular was important for Italy as the country has been overwhelmed by the massive influx of migrants, and has suffered from low growth and high youth unemployment. Moreover, it was the first time newly elected Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni has hosted a G7 summit.

Yet, in comparison to past hosts, both first timers and veterans, Gentiloni is unusual in many respects. First, Gentiloni unexpectedly became the leader of Italy a few months before the summit started, after former prime minister Matteo Renzi resigned upon a defeat in a national referendum. Gentiloni also hosted the summit before having secured an electoral mandate of his own, and working off of his predecessor's agenda for the meeting. Second, Gentiloni leads a complex and shaky coalition government that depends on other members for its legislative survival. Third, having served as his country's foreign minister in the past, unlike any U.S. leader, Gentiloni brought to the table previous international experience.

Does this distinctive combination of characteristics mean Gentiloni was more likely to produce a summit of success? Did Gentiloni's unique experience as foreign minister benefit him in his discussions with the other G7 leaders, or did his young government prove to disadvantage him? The three characteristics — whether it was the first summit for the host, whether the host had direct control of the legislature and whether the host had past experience as a foreign minister — did not have a significant effect on summit success. In analyzing the success of past summit hosts, the results show that the three variables may be factors in the number of commitments produced, but do not necessarily on their own cause an increase in the number of commitments made.

Over the previous 42 G7 summits, the highest number of commitments made was from the 2015 Schloss Elmau Summit, with 376 (see appendix). German chancellor Angela Merkel had hosted previous summits, but has never held the position of foreign minister and has never held a majority government. Her 2007 summit also scored second in regards to the number of commitments made.

At Russian president Vladimir Putin's 2006 St. Petersburg Summit, 317 commitments were made, coming in third place. Putin had attended previous summits as a leader, but lacked the experience as a foreign minister and did not hold a majority government.

The summits that produced the lowest number of commitments were mostly earlier ones. The number of commitments remained relatively low until the mid 1990s and early 2000s, with the exception of the Denver Summit in 1997. The 2002 Kananaskis Summit started the trend of a high quantities of commitments. Throughout the 2000s, there were never fewer than 100 commitments, with the exception of the 2010 Muskoka Summit. It is possible that this increase can be attributed to the global impacts of 9/11 and rapid globalization.

What did this mean for Gentiloni at Taormina? Although there may be a correlation among the three variables, it does not necessarily mean that they are causal, and that they lead directly to the success or failure of a summit host. Gentiloni's unique situation may have played a role in the success of the Taormina Summit, but the data do not prove whether the three variables had a significant impact on that result.

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Appendix: List of Experienced G6/7/8 Summit Hosts 1975-2017

Summit Host country Host leader First summit Direct control of legislature Foreign ministerial service Number of commitments
1975 Rambouillet, France Valery Giscard d'Estaing Yes Yes No 15
1976 San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States Gerald R. Ford No Yes No 10
1977 London, United Kingdom James Callaghan No Yes Yes 55
1978 Bonn, West Germany Helmut Schmidt No No No 50
1979 Tokyo, Japan Masayoshi Ohira Yes No Yes 34
1980 Venice, Italy Francesco Cossiga No No No 55
1981 Ottawa, Canada Pierre E. Trudeau No Yes No 40
1982 Versailles, France

Francois Mitterrand No Yes No 23
1983 Williamsburg, United States Ronald Reagan No Yes No 38
1984 London, United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher No Yes No 31
1985 Bonn, West Germany Helmut Kohl No Yes No 24
1986 Tokyo, Japan Yasuhiro Nakasone No Yes No 39
1987 Venice, Italy Amintore Fanfani No No Yes 53
1988 Toronto, Canada Brian Mulroney No Yes No 27
1989 Paris, France Francois Mitterrand No Yes No 61
1990 Houston, United States George H. W. Bush No Yes No 78
1991 London, United Kingdom John Major Yes Yes Yes 53
1992 Munich, Germany Helmut Kohl No No No 41
1993 Tokyo, Japan Kiichi Miyazawa No Yes Yes 29
1994 Naples, Italy Silvio Berlusconi Yes No No 53
1995 Halifax, Canada Jean Chretien No Yes No 78
1996 Lyon, France Jacques Chirac No Yes No 59
1997 Denver, United States Bill Clinton No Yes No 145
1998 Birmingham, United Kingdom Tony Blair No Yes No 73
1999 Koln, Germany Gerhard Schroder Yes No No 46
2000 Okinawa, Japan Yoshiro Mori Yes No No 105
2001 Genoa, Italy Silvio Berlusconi No Yes No 58
2002 Kananaskis, Canada Jean Chretien No Yes No 187
2003 Evian-les-Bains, France Jacques Chirac No Yes No 206
2004 Sea Island, United States George W. Bush No Yes No 253
2005 Gleneagles, United Kingdom Tony Blair No Yes No 212
2006 St. Petersburg, Russia Vladimir Putin No No No 317
2007 Heiligendamm,     Germany Angela Merkel No No No 329
2008 Hokkaido, Japan Yasuo Fukuda Yes Yes No 206
2009 L'Aquila, Italy Silvio Berlusconi No No No 254
2010 Muskoka Canada Stephen Harper No No No 73
2011 Deauville, France Nicolas Sarkozy No Yes No 193
2012 Camp David, United States Barack Obama No No No 141
2013 Lough Erne, United Kingdom David Cameron No No No 214
2014 Brussels, Belgium (European Union) Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso No - - 141
2015 Elmau, Germany Angela Merkel No No No 376
2016 Ise-Shima, Japan Shinzo Abe No Yes No 196
2017 Taormina, Italy Paolo Gentiloni Yes No Yes 180


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