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Opinion – ‘regional Integration’ Leaves Its Mark on G-20

It is regional integration and connectivity projects that are more likely to be the ultimate catalyst for this year’s G-20 goals on CO2 reduction, stability and growth


All eyes were on the India G-20 last weekend as leaders from 20 leading economies were invited to join the biggest international economic event worldwide. This year the main priority was on economic stability and cooperation, including climate change, gender rights, respect-for-sovereignty, connectivity and peace. The G-20 consists of the most powerful leaders tackling the world’s most difficult issues, including rising protectionism, war and climate change. According to the United Nations’ Impact Assessment, the eradication of poverty and climate change are only numerically and politically possible through increased international cooperation, inclusiveness, connectivity and shared responsibility. In fact, the reality is that without the inclusion of the United States, India, and China (e.g. world’s largest polluters) it is impossible to tackle climate change and reach expected targets by 2030 and 2050.

Common goals

Under the banner “One Earth, One Family, One Future” G-20 leaders placed emphasis on sustainable and stronger economic growth, including the sustainable development goals, climate and the environment. One example of this was the promise by all members to triple renewable capacity globally by 2030, while reaffirming commitments to accelerating efforts towards achieving the Paris Agreement and its temperature goals. In similar fashion, leaders also agreed on the implementation of the ‘Kunming-Montreal global diversity framework’. This aims towards a more sustainable protection of forests, biodiversity and maritime climates, including across the Mediterranean, which has been plagued by devastating temperature changes and rising forest fires. The summit thereby also gave importance to reducing disaster-risks while building resilient and better connected international infrastructure and disaster management plans. In light of the 2023 earthquake in Türkiye, it became increasingly important for countries to better coordinate, plan, fund and develop preventive forms of disaster management infrastructure and techniques. During the Summit, discussions were therefore also had about disaster management efforts, and how countries like Türkiye and the EU can better share their experiences and build international coalitions through initiatives like the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and other regional proposals.

Connectivity and regional integration

During the event, countries like Türkiye, India and the European Union (EU) pushed for the inclusion of the African Union (AU), which was awarded the Permanent Seat at the G-20 for the first time in history. Türkiye, in addition to other European countries, have long supported the wish to include more African countries and regional bodies in the G-20 for ethical and practical reasons. On the ethnical side, it remains clear that more countries need to become part of international decision making, while – from a practical perspective – the rising levels of conflict, demographic pressure, instability, pollution and forced migration, all pose a prolonged geographical risk to both Ankara and Brussels. The proximity of the European continent and a shared Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Southern Europe calls for more European-African cooperation, support and economic development. Using existing models from Asia (ASEAN), Latin-America (Mercosur), Europe (European Union), the African Union with its headquarters in Ethiopia has been a force of good in terms of fostering trust, inter-institutional developments, regional economic integration, security and sovereignty for Africans.

The area of connectivity and regional integration was therefore placed high on the G-20’s agenda, precisely because it blends together environmental, human, economic, security and digital objectives under one policy. Areas of connectivity which were also discussed multi-laterally and in bilateral meetings included the Mediterranean-Gulf-Indian corridor of trade, as well as the new trans-Caspian corridor of trade, which unites Europe and the Balkans with Türkiye, Georgia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, also known as the Middle Corridor or trans-Caspian route. Both Türkiye and the EU’s strategies for the region place greater focus on sustainable and more efficient digital connectivity, as well as soft-connectivity tools like border management, customs, and lower red-tape in order to support international trade. This initiative aims to bring up-to-date connectivity, digital infrastructure and improved trade through the Middle Corridor as a direct extension of the EU’s existing and multi-billion TEN-T infrastructure investments. The TEN-T program is regarded as one of the leading infrastructure and connectivity projects in the world, while cooperating ​and supporting Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Türkiye, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The renewed importance placed on multi-corridor funding in the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia, reaffirms the importance which is given to these policies internationally by the G-20.

Food-security and grain-trade

One particularly contentious issue, in terms of providing connectivity, however continues to be the issue of food-security and grain-trade, which remains blocked by Russia’s war in Ukraine. The implications for African countries and Middle Eastern grain-dependent countries poses a major challenge first and foremost for the grain-dependent populations in need of international agreements. However, it equally poses a secondary risk for the EU, Türkiye, and other regional countries that depend on a stable and economically successful African continent. All G-20 leaders recalled that, in line with the UN Charter, all states should respect political independence and territorial integrity (e.g. Ukraine), with a particular focus on military destruction of food and energy infrastructure.

Based on the G-20’s press release, all leaders appear to agree on and perfectly understand the gravity of war, climate change and declining growth in today’s world. Yet despite these gloomy predictions and united solutions, the devil lay in the details. How exactly, by when and under which law will all the leaders’ warm words be interpreted and held to account? While high-level dialogue and exchange will continue to be relevant for guidance, trust and setting targets, it is also increasingly clear that a lot of the weight for social, security economic and environmental change will take place at the regional level with countries that share geographic affinities, cultures and historical transport connections. Ironically, it is regional integration and connectivity projects that are more likely to be the ultimate catalyst for this year’s G-20 goals on CO2 reduction, stability and growth.

Source: AA News