The relics of the disaster lie slashed off the road, guarded by a police car. The destroyed red wagons testify to the seriousness of the train accident in which five people died in early June.
Since the train service to Garmisch-Partenkirchen has been interrupted since then, the organization and logistics of the G7 summit, the meeting of the heads of government of the seven most important western industrial nations (USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan) at Schloss Elmau have been repeated become more complicated. In addition, thousands of delegation members, helpers and journalists travel to the event.
A hiking group is also on the bus to Garmisch, who are surprised that the police are standing on almost every street. You have bad cards these days, because the hiking radius is quite limited.
In Klais, where the path to Schloss Elmau branches off, every car is checked. A total of 18,000 security forces secure this G7 summit, which costs a whopping 170 million euros.
But since his misjudgement as Hamburg’s first mayor at the 2017 G20 summit, Olaf Scholz has preferred to play it safe. The valley around the picturesque Alpine backdrop with the secluded luxury hotel can be wonderfully blocked off, fenced in and controlled. If it weren’t for a brown bear that has been up to mischief in the region for a few weeks and now also had to be taken into account in the security concept.
In Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the surrounding area, the giant summit meets with little love and understanding. While hotels and guesthouses have been fully booked for months, shopkeepers expect losses. Many close their shops until Wednesday.
Oliver Deby clearly shows his anger on the glass front of his shop: “Shit G7, thanks for nothing” – is written on a sticker that stretches across the shop window.
The man sells ice hockey equipment and his main business, the ice rink, has been turned into a police headquarters because of the summit. It has been closed since February and will remain locked until August. He had to cancel a camp for children lasting several weeks, pay back money and otherwise he is stuck with his products – and all that after two years of the pandemic.
“What are we supposed to live on here? I also have children,” says the Garmisch-Partenkirchener and complains about the loss of sales. Compensation payments are not in sight, he says. “I am not a disruptor or opponent of such events, but the dimensions in which this takes place here is out of proportion. They should meet, but at a different place.”
He recalls 2015, when the region was also in a state of emergency, but it wasn’t that bad back then. Police cars have been driving in the area for weeks, helicopters are circling through the air, attractions such as the Alpspitz wave pool are closed or the congress center is sealed off with a barbed wire fence. The father of one daughter is also annoyed that the children in the district cannot go to school now and have to go to distance classes for several days – because of the road closures and controls. “We didn’t choose that.”
For the first time, Olaf Scholz, as chancellor, is organizing a summit of the seven leading Western industrial nations, and the member states have rarely been under greater pressure. The top issues originally planned, such as the recovery of the economy after the corona pandemic and the fight against climate change, have faded somewhat into the background due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, but the view of the Alps with hardly any glaciers left underlines the urgency of this Themes, not to mention the severe heat waves back in June.
The collateral damage of the war, such as grain shortages, inflation and the explosion in energy prices, plus a new world order that is looming on the horizon, raise the question of whether the G7 has long since become an alliance that is increasingly losing control. Added to this are the internal centrifugal forces.
US President Joe Biden is arriving with bad news: the fact that the Supreme Court has overturned the right to abortion after more than 50 years and is allowing the states to ban abortions is a turning point. The country of the once free-liberal ideals is facing huge internal conflicts, the sigh of relief over Biden’s election victory could only have been a short intermediate stage.
After all, President Biden, who is allowed to occupy the west wing of the palace complex that has been converted into a luxury hotel, is helping to strengthen the G7’s cohesion in the fight against Russia. One must not forget that before the annexation of Crimea there was still the G8, and Vladimir Putin was at the table.
But a peace settlement with him is not in sight, one of the main agenda of the summit will be the video link with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday morning.
Since the war could last for years and Ukraine could lose it in the end, completely new questions arise. For example, whether we should work together to support the armaments industry more quickly in producing much more equipment for Ukraine’s struggle for survival, instead of trying to deliver it selectively, as has been the case up to now. Or whether and how Putin can be persuaded to sign a ceasefire.
In general, the West is no longer recognized as an unrestricted leadership alliance, so it is also a summit week of self-assurance, first the EU summit with candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova, then the G7 summit in Bavaria until Tuesday, then on Wednesday nor the two-day NATO summit. But the much more important summit will probably be the G20 in Indonesia at the end of October, and Russian President Vladimir Putin also wants to travel there.
“We now have a few years of ambiguity and uncertainty ahead of us as far as the future world order is concerned,” said SPD leader Lars Klingbeil in a keynote speech a few days ago. “In the coming years there will be competition for relationships, dependencies, ties, cooperation and broadcasts.” Germany must therefore become a leading power, Klingbeil expects a fragile phase with more ad hoc alliances, depending on interests.
Scholz therefore deliberately invited five other major democracies from the Global South to Elmau on Monday, most of which did not condemn the Russian invasion of the United Nations: India, Indonesia, South Africa, Senegal and Argentina. The G7 countries are trying with all their might to convince other countries, especially in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, that the imminent famine caused by the lack of Ukrainian grain deliveries is not their fault, but Russia’s alone. But the question of solutions is a difficult one.
The contrast of the idyll with lush green hilly alpine meadows and the Wetterstein Mountains to the world situation could hardly be greater at the moment. The landings in Munich and then the helicopter flights to Elmau were planned for Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The G7 summit is also a premiere for the Chancellor’s wife, Britta Ernst. You have to complete an affiliate program for the first time. Among other things, a Nordic walking tour around the Ferchensee is planned with the former winter sports ace Christian Neureuther and his daughter-in-law Miriam, a former biathlete and cross-country skier.
Also on the programme: a conversation with a master violin maker from Mittenwald including a sound sample, a meeting with young biathletes and an exchange with Till Rehm from the environmental research station Schneefernerhaus and Veronika Hierlmeier from the Bavarian Species Protection Center on climate change, environmental pollution and insect mortality in the Alps. Scholz should get better pictures this time than in Hamburg, even if withdrawing in the castle now contrasts sharply with the pictures from Ukraine.
If you move half a kilometer away from Garmisch in the direction of Loisach, a tributary of the Isar, you can already see the first tents of a protest camp in a meadow: green, yellow, blue or sprinkled with bright colors. In the middle is a large white one, where the plenary voted that press representatives only have access to individual slots.
They wrote on a large banner and attached to the fence that photography and filming are not allowed here. Otherwise the atmosphere is relaxed, a woman goes to the Loisach and fills up water in a canister. The police have posted themselves discreetly next to the camp.
Despite the summit, some tourists are also drawn to the place. Sitting in the cafés, they watch in amazement the police officers who patrol the town center by the dozen. A couple from Baden-Württemberg did not know until recently that their holiday destination is the scene of a strictly guarded meeting of international heads of state.
So far they haven’t had any problems, they’re waved through everywhere with the bikes, reports the man – and then he has to get annoyed. When he hears how many millions are being invested here, he immediately thinks of examples where this is more urgently needed: “education, health”. His wife agrees: “Besides, it’s our money, we pay for it.”