OTTAWA (CP) - There will be no final, negotiated communique at this year's pared-down G-8 summit. Instead, host Canada will write a brief summary of what the leaders of the world's industrialized countries discuss in Kananaskis, Alta., this June.
The change is just one in a major restructuring of the annual summit at the behest of Prime Minister Jean Chretien, senior summit organizers said during a week of background briefings of selected foreign and Canadian media. "There's a definite attempt by the prime minister to bring the G-8 summit meeting of the leaders more back to the original philosophy . . . ," Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham told reporters from Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Canada.
"A less formal meeting where real discussions about substance can take place, but where there's not a huge amount of attention spent negotiating a communique."
Normally a summit such as the G-8 ends with a communique that has been debated beforehand and watered down so that no words in it offend any of the participating countries.
Critics of last week's conference on development aid in Monterrey, Mexico, said its pre-cooked communique undermined the debate.
But one veteran G-8 observer says such documents serve a number of purposes - both policy-wise and symbolic - and should not be abandoned.
"From a sheer tactical level, people look at it and say, 'Geez, this was an awfully expensive executive retreat,' " said John Kirton, a professor at the University of Toronto.
"Surely leaders should get together and chat, but if all we get from it are two pages of principles - which will probably look somewhat anodyne to the average observer - then we'll really increase the degree of skepticism."
Much has been made already of the Kananaskis location, nestled in the Rocky Mountains about 110 kilometres from Calgary.
The isolated mountain resort defies the kind of street demonstrations that have overshadowed most major summits of world leaders since the 1999 WTO conference in Seattle. The defining moment of last year's G-8 summit in Italy proved to be the death of a young man shot in the head while attacking police on a Genoa street.
"The hope is to achieve in Canada an event that is not defined by violence," said a senior summit organizer with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
But Kananaskis will differ in more than just its lack of protest accessibility.
The summit is to begin at noon on June 26 and wrap up at 6 p.m. the following day, a full 18 hours shorter than previous G-8 meetings.
Each of the eight summit leaders will have only 24 delegates - including personal security staff - staying at the Kananaskis site, which has only 410 hotel rooms. In Genoa, some official delegations had as many 600 members.
The summit agenda has been whittled down to three subjects: the traditional G-8 focus on global economic growth; African development; and counter-terrorism.
"There's been a dramatic reduction in the agenda," said one organizer.
The most vivid symbol of the more informal summit will be the absence of the dense, 20-plus-page G-8 communique that Canadian officials like to say has more writers than readers.
"It's become a bit of a bureaucratic industry," said an official.
Instead of a final communique, the G-8 countries have agreed to allow Canada to summarize the actual leaders' discussions in "very executive fashion" at the end of the summit.
"We're not going to include in there something that is controversial or designed to embarrass one partner," said a senior Foreign Affairs official.
But any leader with an axe to grind will be free to do so in the post-summit news conference, he added.
The point is to eliminate the bureaucratic, unenlightening reports that typify G-8 summit finales.
"Pre-negotiating the outcomes is really not what this summit is about," said the official.
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