The president of the European Council sounded an ominous warning for the G7 as leaders of the world’s major democracies began arriving Saturday in the French seaside resort of Biarritz for their annual summit.
Donald Tusk did not mince words about the state of discord among nations and whether there is enough political will to address the rise of authoritarian states, halt emerging trade wars and fight the disastrous effects of climate change.
“This may be the last moment to restore our political community,” said Tusk, the former prime minister of Poland who has headed the European Council since 2014.
“This will be another G7 which will be a difficult test of unity and solidarity of the free world and its leaders.”
It is far from certain, he said, whether the 44-year-old international institution will be able to find common solutions or if the nations will “focus on senseless disputes amongst each other.”
Since last year’s summit in Charlevoix, Que., it has become even more difficult for countries to find a common language.
WATCH: Donald Tusk addresses the G7
Later on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In French remarks, Trudeau said the global economy and trade would be a big focus of their private meeting, as well as climate change.
Johnson replied that he couldn’t think of any big issues on which Canada and Britain disagree.
“Canada and U.K. are side by side,” he told reporters.
However, this week Canada rebuked its cross-Atlantic neighbour for revoking the citizenship of Jack Letts, dubbed Jihadi Jack by British media after he left for Syria and is alleged to have joined ISIS.
Letts, who is currently in a Kurdish prison, also holds Canadian citizenship and has now expressed a desire to come to Canada.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the Britain was unilaterally trying to “offload their responsibilities” by revoking its citizenship. Many countries are facing a quandary of how to deal with their nationals picked up in ISIS territory.
The EU is prepared to hold “serious talks” with Johnson about Brexit, but Tusk insisted there be a framework for the country’s withdrawal from the partnership
“I still hope Prime Minister Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr. No Deal,” he said. “We are willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all member states, including Ireland.”
Russia not invited
Tusk dismissed U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent second attempt to convince the other countries to allow Russia to return to the summit table, restoring the G8. Tusk noted that Moscow has yet to return Crimea to Ukraine and maintains an aggressive posture toward its neighbours.
“The reasons Russia was disinvited in 2014 are still valid. There are new reasons, such as the Russian provocation on the Azov Sea,” he said, referring to the seizure of Ukrainian patrol boats and sailors in the Kursk Strait late last year.
In the 1990s, Russia was invited because it was on the path toward liberal democracy, a free-market economy and human rights protections.
“Is there anyone among us who can say with full conviction — not out of business calculation — that Russia is on that path?” Tusk said.
It would be better to invite Ukraine as a guest next year, as opposed to Russia, he added.
Thousands of anti-globalization and environmental activists joined yellow vest protesters and Basque separatists on Saturday near Biarritz to demand action from G7 leaders.
The peaceful protesters converged on the nearby town of Hendaye on the French border with Spain to demand change in the economic and climate policies pursued by the world’s leading industrial nations.
Trudeau will meet later in the day with Japan’s Shinzo Abe.
Canadian officials are expecting an update on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. but Japan is also eager to talk security.
Canada recently committed to a regular rotation of warships in the Far East to keep an eye on North Korean sanctions.
In recent days, an intelligence-sharing partnership between Japan and South Korea fell apart over a trade dispute. And according to Japanese officials, speaking on background to CBC News, the cancelling of the arrangement puts the alliance against North Korea in danger.
Trudeau hosted last year’s summit, which ended with Trump tweeting insults at him from aboard Air Force One because he felt he had been slighted by the PM after he left the meeting.