Written by Etienne Bassot and Marcin Szczepański
The Group of Twenty (G20) is an informal forum for international cooperation, and consists of 19 major economies plus the European Union. It gained in prominence in 2008 – when regular summits at the level of leaders commenced – taking on the role of ‘global crisis management committee’.
While the majority of observers argue that the G20 did remarkably well to contain the financial and economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, it has been less successful in finding consensus and making progress on its agenda since the urgency and immediate pressures diminished. The outcomes of recent summits have therefore been rather modest, if not disappointing. The gap between agreed commitments and their implementation varies across policy areas and member countries but, for many observers, threatens to undermine the G20’s credibility. The assessment of G20 policies remains mixed as its achievements are often accompanied by stalled progress and failure to implement. However, there are limits as to what can be accomplished due to the G20’s voluntary rather than legal character, and lack of a formal enforcement mechanism.
The G20 and the EU have the potential to mutually advance their agendas. The EU is strongly represented in the G20 which, according to some, gives it some influence on the G20’s agenda. At the same time G20 commitments have had substantial impact on Europe’s reforms of its financial sector.
The November 2014 Brisbane summit was hailed as a success by the leaders, whereas the view of commentators was more mixed. Many argue that it was a modest, selective success, with political issues crowding an economically oriented agenda. It remains to be seen whether the G20 can support long-term economic recovery.