So that there is no misunderstanding: such summits must take place, right now, especially in this phase in which Russia is at war and the old order has been broken. The personal exchange, two days to think in peace, that is much more productive than video switching.
But the days of Elmau have shown at the same time. This is not how a summit should be organized, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and his government are currently preaching renunciation – down in the valley, angry citizens keep hearing the “preach water, drink wine” comparison. A G7 summit in Germany has never been so expensive, with the 170 million euros in costs for the taxpayer, it will not stay, luxury and comfort was not saved. In 2015, the summit here was similarly complicated in terms of logistics, but at least a lot cheaper.
It also doesn’t fit Scholz’s social democratic claim to advance climate protection and sustainability, if there are hundreds of helicopter flights and 18,000 police officers have to be carted back and forth to protect this summit in the luxury castle. Pupils who cannot go to school have limited sports opportunities for months, for example because security forces have seized halls for the summit.
Sure, the area around Elmau can be sealed off and protected wonderfully, but the place is just the wrong place for this summit. It requires a lot of transportation. The pictures of happy heads of state and government in front of a picturesque Alpine backdrop are certainly iconic, but do they fit the world situation, especially when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenkyj lets himself be tuned in from the war zone?
In addition, hundreds of journalists have to be driven to the castle every day from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is almost 20 kilometers away, and in some cases flown there by helicopter, in order to report on the statements and appearances of the heads of state and government.
At the G20 summit in Rome in October, people met in a large, unadorned exhibition center, so the distances were short, everything was easier to organize and also more climate-friendly. In a big city, the risk of demonstrations with riots is certainly greater, and Scholz has been a burned child since Hamburg 2017.
But there are certainly many other places where such a summit could be organized more easily and cheaply. Even if the Alpine backdrop is missing.
It’s certainly a little smaller, and the local police officers also speak of “madness” – and have a stomach ache in view of the worries and needs of many citizens. And despite all the show and summit declarations, that is not sustainable. Scholz’s environment sometimes almost arrogantly wipes away objections to size and costs.
But especially in these fragile times, the intuition of the citizens should not be underestimated. They are supposed to save energy as a result of the Russian war and will have to tighten their belts. If, on the other hand, politics entrenches itself in an expensive parallel world, this only reinforces prejudice and frustration. A little more modesty as a role model would be appropriate.