The annual G8 summit has become as well known for anarchist protests as for the issues discussed, but who or what are the G8?

The G8 is a group of seven of the world's leading industrialised countries plus Russia. The seven are, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US and Canada. The Group of Eight is essentially informal, and has no budget and no permanent staff.

The G8 first started life as the Library Group. Prompted by the oil crisis and global recession in the 1970s the US started discussions with senior financial officials from Europe and Japan. In 1975 the discussions drew in heads of governments, and the six nations involved became known as the G6. Canada joined in 1976 making it the G7 and Russia in 1998, forming the G8 who meet today.

Issues likely to be high on this year's agenda are:

  • World trade talks, developed countries would like more access to Europe protected markets, as well as those in India and Brazil.
  • Emissions targets
  • Investment in Africa

Many commentators will also be closely watching the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Relations between Russia and Europe were obviously strained during the EU Russian summit in Samara, as reported in last fortnight's e-bulletin. Since then Putin has threatened to aim his nuclear missiles at several sights in Europe which host part of a US anti-ballistic missile system, mainly in Poland and the Czech Republic. President Bush fired back with comments about Russia "derailing" democracy, prompting many to wonder whether we are watching the opening gambits to a second cold war.