G8 Summit: World Focus on Birmingham; Tony Blair Welcomes the World's Most Powerful Leaders to an Historic Me Eting

The Birmingham Post (England), May 12, 1998 | Go to article overview

G8 Summit: World Focus on Birmingham; Tony Blair Welcomes the World's Most Powerful Leaders to an Historic Me Eting


I am delighted to be hosting the G8 summit in Birmingham. It is a little bit of history - the first time Britain has ever held the meeting of world leaders outside London.

But the West Midlands is no stranger to being the centre of the world's attention.

Not for nothing was the West Midlands known as the workshop of the world. The energy and innovation of the people in the region made it the powerhouse of Britain's industrial might in the last century and Birmingham is again attracting attention.

The city centre has been transformed through an exciting partnership between the council and business.

We will be making full use of the wonderful facilities the city can now boast during the summit. President Clinton, the other heads of Government and I will hold our formal meetings at the International Conference Centre while the thousands of journalist s who will cover the three-day event will be based at the nearby National Indoor Arena.

The city's excellent hotels will house the world leaders and their accompanying delegations and Birmingham's fine Symphony Hall will be the setting for a special concert.

I know Birmingham will do us all proud. I was delighted the city was chosen as the venue for this summit but I want this summit to be remembered for more than the warm welcome we receive in Birmingham.

I want it to have an impact for good on the city, on Britain, and on the wider world. It is why we have made dramatic changes to the way the summit is run.

Streamlining it, paring down the numbers who attend, ensuring the agenda concentrates on what matters to people.

Getting it back in fact to what it was originally meant to be.

These summits of the leading industrialised democracies first began over 20 years ago as an informal forum where the world's economic problems could be discussed. Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the US were the original members but were quickly joine d by Italy and Canada as well as the President of the then European Commission.

These countries, who took it in turn to host the event, were tagged the Group of Seven - G7 for short.

As democracy replaced communism, Russia began to play a fuller role in these annual events and I am delighted to say that this summit will be the first with President Yeltsin playing a full part.

Over the years, the summits have also become more formal and unwieldy.

The informal working meetings became fullown international conferences with lengthy communiques.

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