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G8 Background

Sea Island Summit 2004
Meeting of G8 Justice and Home Affairs Ministers
Washington - May 11, 2004
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Prior G8 JHA Meetings
G8 Background
Background on the G8

The G8 (or “Group of Eight”) is a multilateral group consisting of the world's major industrial democracies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. While the European Union is not a member of the G8, EU representatives attend G8 meetings as “observers. The G8 address a wide range of international economic, political, and security issues.

The Presidency of the G8, and responsibility of hosting all G8 meetings, rotates each year, with the order of G8 Presidencies as follows:


2002 Canada
2003 France
2004 United States
2005 United Kingdom
2006 Russia
2007 Germany
2008 Japan
2009 Italy
2010 Canada


Origins. The G8 has its origin at an economic summit in 1975 convened by President Valery Giscard d’Estaing of France and attended by leaders from Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. President Giscard and Chancellor Schmidt of Germany wanted to establish an informal forum for world leaders to discuss world economic issues. Italy and Canada joined this original “Group of Five” in 1976-77 and the configuration became known as the Group of Seven, or “G-7.” Annual G-7 meetings followed a limited agenda of economic issues, and were intended to provide a setting for informal consultations.

The 1980s and 1990s. In the 1980s, the annual G-7 Summits became more formal, with an agreed statement, or Communiqué, issued by the leaders at the conclusion of each meeting. Leaders such as President Reagan, French President Mitterand, German Chancellor Kohl, and British Prime Minister Thatcher brought increasingly broader agendas to the table. (For example, the 1983 Williamsburg Summit, hosted by President Reagan, produced a G-7 agreement to support the deployment of U.S. Pershing and Cruise missiles to Europe to confront new Soviet SS20 missiles.)

At the end of the Cold War, as democratic and economic reform got underway in Russia, Russian leaders were gradually integrated into the G-7. (Former President Gorbachev attended a meeting in the margins of the London Summit in 1991. Likewise, in 1992 and 1993, President Yeltsin was invited to Summits to discuss financial assistance to the Russian economy, and in 1994 he also took part in foreign policy discussions. In recognition of broader Russian involvement, the Denver Summit in 1997 was called the “Summit of the Eight.”) In 1998, the G-7’s name was formally changed to the “G8,” and the first full G8 Summit was held in Birmingham in June of that year.

Work on International Crime. After the 1995 Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a group of experts was brought together to look for better ways to fight international crime. In 1996, this group (later known as the “Lyon Group”) produced Forty Recommendations to combat international crime that were endorsed by the G8 Heads of State at their Summit Meeting in Lyon in June 1996. “Subgroups” of the Lyon Group thereafter were formed to address specific crime-related issues (e.g., legal processes for evidence-sharing, high-tech crime, and immigrations fraud and human trafficking). In December 1997, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno hosted the first-ever meeting of her counterparts from the G8 countries and the Ministers issued their first joint Communiqué.

Changes Following September 11, 2001. In October 2001, senior representative of G8 Justice and Home Affairs Ministries met in Rome to discuss steps for the G8 to take to combat international terrorism and decided to combine the G8's Lyon Group (fighting international crime) and the G8's Roma Group (fighting international terrorism). Since that time, the Lyon/Roma Group has met three times annually in joint session. While continuing important work to combat international crime, the group uses its resources to combat terrorism through such avenues as enhancements to legal systems, port and maritime security, and tools for investigating terrorist uses of the Internet.

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Updated March 8, 2017