Biden Returns to Europe to Attend G7 Summit, Meet with Zelenskyy

Biden Returns to Europe to Attend G7 Summit, Meet with Zelenskyy
President Joe Biden is welcomed by Air Force Colonel Angela Ochoa as he arrives to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on June 12, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

PUGLIA, Italy—President Joe Biden is heading to Europe on Wednesday to attend the Group of Seven (G7) Summit, which will take place in southern Italy from June 13–15.

The summit will be held in Puglia, also known as Apulia, a region located at the heel of Italy’s boot-shaped peninsula, famous for its rich history, sandy beaches, and olive oil production.

The three-day summit will bring together leaders of the world’s most advanced economies—the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is hosting this year’s gathering at the luxury hotel resort of Borgo Egnazia, a site that has hosted many celebrities, such as Madonna, Justin Timberlake, and David Beckham.

President Biden’s trip to Italy follows his five-day visit to France last week, where he commemorated the 80th anniversary of D-Day and attended a state visit to hold bilateral discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron.

In an election year, the G7 summit holds significant importance for President Biden. As with his recent trip to France, he is expected to use the occasion to stress the importance of alliances and oppose isolationism, a stance he often uses to critique his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

The Vatican confirmed in April that Pope Francis will join the leaders’ summit, participating in a special session on artificial intelligence (AI).

“This is the first time in history that a pontiff will participate in the work of a G7,” Ms. Meloni said on April 26.

It is unclear whether President Biden will meet with the Pope on the sidelines of the summit.

World leaders expect to discuss a wide range of issues during the group’s 50th summit, including the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, Russian assets, economic security, artificial intelligence, migration, climate change, and food security.

Frozen Russian Assets

The G7 leaders are likely to announce a plan for unlocking the frozen Russian sovereign assets to assist Ukraine, an initiative that the United States has championed for a while.

In the run-up to the crucial summit, the G7 finance ministers held discussions about the legality of using some $250 billion worth of frozen assets kept in European accounts as collateral for providing a loan to Ukraine for reconstruction. France was believed to be the main holdout on the plan.

President Biden mentioned before leaving France last week that he had reached an agreement with Mr. Macron on a plan to use the frozen Russian assets.

The proposal under discussion involves using the profits from these assets, specifically the interest earned, as collateral to provide Ukraine with a loan through a sovereign lender. Italy will capture the spotlight this week if the G7 leaders can agree on the details of this proposal.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One en route to Italy that the discussions about how to unlock Russian assets are still underway.

“We consider those discussions constructive, productive, and driving forward. I don’t have anything to announce to you today. But I believe that we are making good progress,” he said.

Biden–Zelenskyy Meeting

Another significant event on the G7 sidelines will be the meeting between President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Following their meeting, the leaders plan to sign a bilateral security agreement.

This agreement does not include any commitment to using U.S. forces to defend Ukraine, Mr. Sullivan explained. But it aims to guarantee that Ukraine has the necessary physical capacity, as well as intelligence and other capabilities, to effectively defend itself, he added.

Both leaders have scheduled a press conference for Thursday to address the media after their meeting.

This follows the bilateral discussion between President Biden and Mr. Zelenskyy last week in Paris, France, which took place during the D-Day commemorations.

During the June 7 meeting, President Biden apologized to Ukraine’s president for the delays in passing a foreign aid measure that included $61 billion in support for Ukraine.

“We’re not going to walk away from you,” President Biden told Mr. Zelenskyy, announcing $225 million in new assistance for the war-torn country.

Last year, President Zelenskyy stole the show with his unexpected visit to the G7 in Japan.

This year, he is expected to call on G7 countries to commit to more funding. Hence, the announcement regarding Russian assets will be vital for the Ukrainian president.

From 1998 through 2014, Russia was a member of the forum known as the Group of Eight (G8). However, the country was suspended after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Key Priority: Artificial Intelligence

Developing and using AI ethically is a key priority for the Italian leader at this year’s summit. There will be a special session on AI, during which the Pope will deliver a speech.

The Vatican has an initiative known as the “Rome Call for AI Ethics,” which was launched several years ago and is already supported by some well-known companies, such as Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco.

Ms. Meloni has been vocal about the dangers of AI. She has expressed concerns about the impact of AI on the labor market, claiming that it will eliminate the need for people, widening the income gap.

“AI is a means; it can be a good or a bad one. It depends on our capacity to govern it, to tackle the risks and the impact it can have, for example, on the labor market,” Ms. Meloni said at the White House during her meeting with President Biden on March 1.

“We want to develop AI, but also we want to be certain that it remains human-centered.”

Tackling AI risks is crucial at this year’s summit as it’s contributing to the spread of disinformation, foreign interference, and election interference, according to Greg Allen, director of the CSIS Wadhwani Center for AI and Advanced Technologies.

“Recently, Open AI—one of the leading AI companies worldwide—announced that Chinese and Russian propaganda services were using Open AI’s ChatGPT service to mass produce propaganda messaging at really low cost,” he said during a CSIS press briefing to preview the summit.

He also mentioned the growing use of AI in global political election campaigns to produce synthetic media (images, videos, and sounds) to disseminate high-quality disinformation.

Response to China

Last year, China’s economic coercion was a primary focus at the G7 summit held in Hiroshima, Japan.

The G7 leaders stated publicly in 2023 that they saw China as an economic bully and that the international community would not put up with Beijing’s “economic coercion.” They warned for the first time that there would be “consequences.”

China’s harmful tactics that undermine international rules and norms, particularly the recent industrial overcapacity problem, are expected to be discussed at this year’s summit.

Chinese companies are rapidly seizing market share in strategic industries such as solar panels, wind turbines, steel, and EVs. The U.S. and European governments have expressed alarm about China’s excess capacity, which is largely attributed to massive government subsidies. One major concern is the impact of the overcapacity problem on the development and innovation of industries in other countries.

“For the United States, the primary motivation continues to be China,” according to Emily Benson, director of the project on trade and technology at the CSIS.

“The United States believes that this incoming flow of goods from China will be more acute and broader than the previous China shock, and so they’re doing everything that they can to convince allies and partners to join a more protective U.S. approach,” Ms. Benson said during the CSIS press briefing.

It remains to be seen if tariff rates on inbound goods from China into the G7 bloc will be more closely aligned, she said.

The European Commission announced on June 12 that it will impose additional tariffs of up to 38.1 percent on imported Chinese electric cars starting in July.

According to Mr. Sullivan, the G7 countries agree that they must work together to address the challenges posed by China’s policies and practices.

“I do think you can expect to see a common framework around some of these issues emerging as part of the final text of the communique,” he said.

The summit follows last Sunday’s European Parliament elections, which shook the continent’s political climate.

Right-wing parties made significant gains in the election, especially in France, which in turn, compelled President Macron to announce the dissolution of the French parliament and call for a snap election.

The White House is confident that this new development will have no impact on President Biden’s relationship with the European leaders.

“The President will work with the democratically elected leaders of France no matter who they are,” White House national security communications advisor John Kirby told reporters on June 11.

“We have every confidence that regardless of who fills what seats in the EU parliament, we’re going to continue to work closely with President von der Leyen and our EU partners on all the issues relative to our shared interest across the European continent, and that includes supporting Ukraine.”

From The Epoch Times