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Economy

Diplomacy and protests ahead of G7 summit in Biarritz

media Police patrol the security perimeter of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, 23 August 2019. Regis Duvignau/Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron met with world leaders and their representatives ahead of the Group of Seven summit which opens in the south-western French city of Biarritz on Saturday. The summit will be focused on issues of inequality, leaving protesters sceptical.

On Friday Macron was set to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as France and other world powers seek to salvage a 2015 international nuclear deal from which the United States withdrew earlier this year.

Macron met with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi on Thursday in Paris. Both the Iranian nuclear deal, and tensions between India and Pakistan are certain to come up at this weekend’s G7 summit, attended by US President Donald Trump, along with Boris Johnson as Britain’s new Prime Minister.

The Group of Seven includes France, the US and Britain, along with Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The host of the summit usually sets the agenda, and France has officially focused the Biarritz meeting on the broad theme of reducing inequality.

Leaders often meet one to one and can discuss anything else, and Macron has already called for a discussion about fires in the Amazon. He is also due to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he will discuss the case of former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, who is awaiting trial in Japan on financial misconduct allegations.

Civil society

Macron is hosting civil society representatives in Paris on Friday for what the presidency is calling a “day of dialogue” ahead of the summit, to address issues such as equality between men and women and climate change.

Several NGOs have decided to boycott the summit to protest against the presidency’s decision to limit the number of accreditations.

Réseau action climat (Climate action network), which brings together 32 local and national organisations, including Greenpeace and Oxfam France, said NGOs received 25 spots, compared to nearly 100 in past years, a move they call “an attack on freedom of expression of civil society”.

Protests

Over 13,000 police officers have been deployed to protect the summit in Biarritz, in France’s Basque country. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned of the threat of “outbreaks” of violence, citing protests in Prague in 2000; Genoa, Italy, in 2001, Rostock, Germany, in 2007; and London in 2009

Sceptical of the organisers' message this year, thousands of protesters are already camped in Biarritz. They claim that capitalism has led to damaging inequalities and that environmental degradation has harmed the global economy.

Anti-globalisation and climate activists have been joined by Yellow Vest protesters and Basque nationalists for a "counter-G7" summit at Hendaye, south of Biarritz on the Franco-Spanish border.

Organisers plan peaceful marches in Hendaye and Irun on Saturday, while Yellow Vest organisers called for their 41st Saturday protest to be held in Biarritz, off-limits to protesters.

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