G7 summit opens with deal to use Russian assets for Ukraine as EU’s traditional powers recalibrate

The Group of Seven summit commences today in Bari, Italy. One of the key agreements reached prior to the summit is the endorsement of a U.S. proposal to provide a $50 billion loan to Ukraine. This loan will be secured using frozen Russian assets as collateral, demonstrating strong support for Kyiv. The timing of this agreement is significant, as Europe’s political landscape is undergoing a shift towards the right. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is present at the summit and is anticipated to sign a separate bilateral security agreement with U.S. President Joe Biden.
In addition to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Pope Francis will make history as the first pope to address a G7 summit. This year, the summit is taking place in the beautiful Puglia region of Italy, and the Pope’s presence adds a touch of celebrity and moral authority to the annual gathering. On Friday, he will speak about the opportunities and challenges posed by artificial intelligence, while also using his platform to call for peace in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The G7 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As the host country, Italy has invited several African leaders, including Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Kenyan President William Ruto, and Tunisian President Kais Saied, to discuss Italy’s development and migration initiatives on the continent.

In addition to these leaders, other notable guests at the summit include Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who recently won re-election, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
With upcoming elections for Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and French President Emmanuel Macron, the G7 faced pressure to accomplish what they could while the current situation remains. The U.S. proposed a $50 billion loan to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, using the interest earned on profits from Russia’s frozen central bank assets as collateral. However, there are still technical and legal details to be worked out regarding accessing these assets. It is a complex issue because if the Russian assets are unfrozen in the future, the windfall profits can no longer be used to repay the loan, necessitating a burden-sharing agreement with other countries.
In addition to the agreement, Sunak also announced a nonmilitary aid package of up to 242 million pounds (286 million euros or $310 million) to Ukraine. This aid is intended to address humanitarian, energy, and stabilization needs. The United States has also shown its support by expanding sanctions against Russia to target Chinese companies that are assisting in its military efforts.

On the European political landscape, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni enters the meeting with strong support both domestically and internationally. Her far-right party had an even greater success in the European Parliament election than in the national general election in 2022, which led to her becoming Italy’s first female premier. Italy, known for its frequent changes in government, now finds itself in the unique position of being the most stable power in the European Union.
The leaders of Germany and France, who are also members of the G7, didn’t have as much success. They were shaken by the strong performance of hard-right parties in the vote. Macron called for an early election, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats finished behind both mainstream conservatives and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

As a result, Meloni is expected to be able to guide the three-day meeting towards her key priorities, solidifying her role on the world stage, according to analysts. One indication of her strong far-right stance is that Meloni’s office denied media reports suggesting that Italy was trying to weaken language on abortion access in the final communique.

An anonymous French official, in line with customary practices from Macron’s office, stated that there were differing views between Italian and French negotiators on certain topics, such as sexual and reproductive health and vaccines.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has confirmed that discussions about abortion are ongoing. However, he also stated that discussions are still in progress.

Nick O’Connell, deputy director of the Atlantic Council, stated that while the recent election results are unlikely to significantly change the focus of the upcoming G7 Summit, they provide Italian Prime Minister Meloni with additional leverage to present it as a “Mediterranean Summit.”

Meloni aims to use this platform to promote her migration agenda, which includes developing a non-exploitative relationship with Africa to foster development and reduce illegal migration to Europe.

Pope Francis has called for an international treaty to ensure the ethical development and use of artificial intelligence (AI). He recognizes the potential benefits of AI but also emphasizes the serious and existential threats it poses.
He plans to take his campaign to the developed countries around the world as conflicts continue to occur in various regions. One of his major concerns is the use of AI in the weapons industry, which the Jesuit pope has criticized, referring to traditional weapons manufacturers as “merchants of death.”

However, Francis is also worried about the implications of AI for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals. This technology could potentially determine the trustworthiness of a mortgage applicant, the eligibility of a migrant for political asylum, or the likelihood of a previous offender to reoffend.

The G7 summit is currently taking place in a luxurious resort that resembles a staged town, designed to mimic the medieval white-washed villages of Puglia. Although it was built in 2010 and is not an authentic historical site.
Borgo Egnazia, located near an actual archaeological park, is a popular destination for celebrities. It features charming narrow streets, villas, restaurants, and a town square with a clocktower. For the duration of the summit, it will be exclusive to attendees and closed to the public.

However, the accommodations for the 2,000-plus police and Carabinieri forces providing security are not as luxurious. They were initially housed in a decommissioned cruise ship in Brindisi’s port, but it was recently sealed off due to complaints about unsanitary conditions.

Like in any G7 summit, various activist groups opposed to globalization, war, and climate change are staging protests. These demonstrations are taking place away from where the leaders are meeting. One group is organizing a “dinner for the poor” on Friday night, advocating for peace, the rights of people, and against the power of the Big 7 in shaping the world’s destiny.