G7 backs Ukraine and tackles migration

Italy shaped the agenda after Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was able to celebrate her party’s victory in the European elections by hosting the G7 summit last weekend in Apulia.

| 6 min read

At the G7 summit, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni gently shaped the agenda to her preoccupation with reducing the migrant flows into southern Italy from Africa across the Mediterranean.

All too many lives have been lost at sea in small boats on the crossing, and too many people traffickers have profited from running the transport. She held sessions on how to improve opportunities for people living in African countries, to reduce the attractions of moving, and on how to control borders better. This was of equal interest to US President Joe Biden and the other European leaders around the table, all facing illegal migration issues of their own. The leaders of Kenya, Algeria and Tunisia were in attendance to respond.

President Biden used the opportunity to agree and sign a new memorandum with Ukraine. The US offered a promised $50bn of additional money in the form of a loan guaranteed by the US and underwritten by the interest being earned on frozen Russian sovereign assets held in Western banks. The mechanism is still being worked out.

The G7 have discussed before the possible confiscation of these Russian state assets. There is $285bn held for the Russian central bank and state, largely in European banks. The countries have, so far, decided against confiscating these assets, but have immobilised them pending resolution of the Ukraine war. They are now talking of using the running income on this capital to help with financing Ukraine.

The West argues it is upholding the rules-based international system. It is considering legal options as to whether some of this money or the income it generates can be used given the way Russia has violated international law and has caused so much damage to Ukrainian assets and people.

Russia has stated this latest move would be theft and will come at a price. China has indicated it expects international banking law to be upheld which usually includes sovereign immunity for state money held abroad. This dispute does not make much difference to the break down in US and Nato relations with Russia but will be watched by third countries considering where to place their sovereign reserves.

This is another move which reinforces the development of rival US and China led banking and settlement systems. The US text states they will “work with partners to explore all possible avenues by which immobilised Russian sovereign assets could be made use of to support Ukraine consistent with domestic and international law”.

The US/Ukraine agreement

President Volodymyr Zelensky was at the summit to make his case again for more money and military support. This time President Biden not only came up with the new loan but also a 10-year agreement between the US and Ukraine to strengthen Ukraine’s military capabilities.

There are five core articles. The first sets out how the agreement respects each other’s sovereignty and leads to later provisions to allow exit by either side on six months’ notice. The second sets out fuller defence and security co-operation by the militaries and through the defence industrial partners.

The US offers to help create credible Ukrainian defence and deterrent capacity. Both will offer mutual support, share intelligence and seek to police the Black Sea. The third makes provision for the expensive rebuilding of Ukraine to deal with war damage. The fourth provides for Ukraine to continue constitutional and governance reforms to bring it more into line with Nato and EU standards, The fifth proposes a Just Peace to be secured from Russia.

It is all based around the prospect of Ukraine joining Nato formally, presumably after negotiating peace with Russia. That would push Nato’s boundaries further eastwards and would be a major concern to Russia. It limits the offer Ukraine can make to Russia should peace talks get underway, as Russia might want amongst other things an assurance Ukraine does not join Nato. Ukraine will want to join, as once a member then other members would be expected to offer more direct support to Ukraine were Russia to violate her borders again.

Nato and Western allies have this year found it difficult to send enough money and military support to Ukraine, making the conduct of the war more challenging. This extra money and the military agreement, coupled with US relaxation of conditions of use of some weapons, is a major boost to Ukraine.

There are, as yet, no formal signs of peace talks being pressed, but a stronger Ukraine position would be a necessary prelude to any such diplomatic overtures. At a separate conference to discuss pace in Ukraine, Russia was not present and the Western side repeated its wish to see Russia withdraw and return Ukrainian territory.

The EU has disagreements between members over how many people different countries should take to relieve the coastal states like Italy.

The leaders sympathised with each other over too many illegal migrants, but their border security issues remain more national or EU-wide than global. Italy has a long, exposed coastal border to police. The EU has disagreements between members over how many people different countries should take to relieve the coastal states like Italy.

President Biden has his own southern Mexican border issues. They agreed to improve what common policing and anti-trafficking work they can do and exchange more intelligence. They also agreed that policies to end civil wars and poverty in southern countries were crucial to reduce the numbers of people wanting to take such risks.

The agreement set out a general global framework for tackling migration based around helping countries out of poverty and war, more work to arrest people traffickers and safe routes for legal entry for migrants and asylum seekers.

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G7 backs Ukraine and tackles migration

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