When world leaders finally gathered for the G20 summit in Rome after more than two years apart, the mood was celebratory, with formalities temporarily abandoned in favor of punches and football jokes.
“It’s great to see you all here after a few difficult years for the global community. The pandemic has separated us – as it has with all of our citizens,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Saturday as he opened the talks. two days of high-level talks.
Spirits could have easily crumbled: before the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron had seriously fallen out with the United States over a submarine deal, as tensions escalated with the Kingdom United on fishing rights.
But Briton Boris Johnson gave Macron a simulated hand pump as he showed up – late – for the group photo.
The Briton also remained informal with US President Joe Biden, joking “Hey Joe!” as he took his place.
In a first for a G20 “family photo”, leaders were joined by medics, firefighters and other frontline workers who saved lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
A White House official said the United States and France had made things right, with the administration expecting future conversations to be “exciting and engaging.”
Biden’s wife Jill and Macron’s wife Brigitte even had a glass of wine together on Friday, with Jill saying they were “like sisters.”
“I love Italy, Brigitte loves Italy. Who wouldn’t love Italy?” she said as they laughed together.
“Push the boat”
There were also jokes between Argentine President Alberto Fernandez and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – who regularly clash over politics.
“You haven’t congratulated me on Argentina’s Copa America triumph yet,” Fernandez told Bolsonaro, who had publicly vowed that Brazil would beat Argentina 5-0 in the final.
The Brazilian president had spent part of Friday living “la dolce vita” as he tasted delicacies near the Pantheon and posed for photos at the Trevi Fountain, before posting a video of his getaway on Twitter – on the soundtrack of the Italian national anthem.
Leaders were due to dine on Saturday with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who was enjoying a feast of salmon, pumpkin risotto, stuffed artichokes and wine.
Their wives had initially planned trips to the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
After a visit with the Pope to the Vatican on Friday, the American motorcade – made up of some 84 cars – ran into problems, with one of its vehicles being involved in a minor accident.
The White House said there were “no serious injuries.”
The G20 has paralyzed the historic city center of the Italian capital.
But a security “red zone” around the summit itself has left the streets strangely empty around Rome’s futuristic convention center, known as “Nuvola” (cloud), in the southern quarter of EUR.
The district, built by Benito Mussolini to glorify his fascist regime, certainly impressed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who pointed out to Boris the “unusual opulence” of the surroundings.
The Italian hosts “certainly pushed the boat out,” Boris joked.
Across town, money – or the lack of funds spent by the G20 to help poor countries tackle climate change – was the theme of a protest sung in Rome by an ABBA cover band.
It was not clear if any of the leaders heard them.
© 2021 AFP