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G8 summit makes Swiss hot under the collar

Anti-globalisation activists have turned up to protest against the G8 meeting Keystone

The G8 summit starts on Wednesday in northern Germany with climate change high on the agenda.

This content was published on June 6, 2007 - 10:06

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, the United States and Russia are meeting informally to discuss issues of global and mutual concern. Switzerland has already communicated its ideas on the environment to Berlin.

The Swiss environment minister, Moritz Leuenberger, presented his country's position on climate issues to his German counterpart only last week.

"Minister Leuenberger [also] discussed in detail with the German environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, the climate proposals made by US President George Bush," Harald Hammel, spokesman for the Federal Environment Office, told swissinfo.

Bush announced a US-led initiative - and thus outside the framework of the United Nations - to combat global warming last week.

The US president wants his country and 14 other major emitters to agree on goals for cutting greenhouse gases by the end of 2008.

Leuenberger called Bush's move a "noticeable volte-face", according to the Swiss news agency. The Swiss minister added that "the goals to cut [greenhouse gases] must be defined globally and be binding".

Swiss protest

While the government in Bern does not have access to the summit itself, the environs of the summit's venue, Heiligendamm near Rostock, is not without a Swiss presence.

A number of Swiss protesters travelled to the town, including a 23-year-old student from Bern, who wished to remain anonymous.

"Our goal in Rostock is to delegitimise the G8," he told swissinfo.

The protesters would try to disrupt the summit by a series of actions on the sidelines.

"For example, we are going to try to prevent the caviar suppliers from getting to Heiligendamm," he said.

The student explained that he did not agree with the violent tactics favoured by more militant groups among the protesters.

Clashes

During the weekend German riot police clashed with anti-globalisation demonstrators in Rostock. Around 1,000 people were injured.

The young protester added that there was not a single street in the town without a police presence and that people were being arrested for no reason and that there were water cannons everywhere.

One of his colleagues from Bern was arrested at the weekend but has since been released.

Oliver Classen, spokesman for the non-governmental organisation, the Berne Declaration, told swissinfo that the G8 had nothing to do with economic reality.

"China is not participating, but Italy is still there!" he said.

He added that violent outbreaks in any form were counterproductive for all concerned.

swissinfo, based on an article in German by Alexander Künzle and Jean-Michel Berthoud

Key facts

Germany currently holds the rotating presidency of the G8, an informal forum where eight countries representing 65% of the world's economy talk shop.
The countries are: Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Britain, the United States and Russia.
The European Commission is also represented at all meetings.
This year's summit is being held at Heiligendamm near Rostock, Germany, from June 6-8.
Climate change is high on the agenda, as well as shaping globalisation and helping Africa.

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