The idea of periodic encounters between world political leaders stemmed from the need to provide an emergency response to the global economic crises that affected the international economic and financial system at the beginning of the 1970s: the collapse of the Bretton Woods monetary system in 1971 and the 1973 oil crisis. It was precisely in that year, at the initiative of US Treasury Secretary George Schultz, that the four leading industrialised countries (France, Germany, United Kingdom, U.S.A.) founded a forum to coordinate on economic and monetary policies at ministerial level. Japan joined the group in 1974 to form the G5. The following year, the first G6 Summit was convened at the initiative of French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and was held in Rambouillet, with Italy participating. The aim was to debate on global economic and financial issues within the framework of what was called an “Economic Summit” between the Heads of State and Government of the six leading world economies.
The format was enlarged with the entrance of Canada in 1976 (G7) and with the participation – in 1977 – of the European Economic Community (which later became the European Union), with a role initially limited to its exclusive areas of competence. Starting from the 1981 Ottawa Summit, the EEC/EU has taken part in all the forums of debate, represented by the President of the European Commission and by the President of the European Council, although it does not chair the G7 Summits.
The Soviet Union was first invited to attend at debates organised in parallel to the G7 London Summit in 1991. Subsequently, the newly formed Russian Federation was gradually included in the G7 process until the first participation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the Naples Summit of 1994, with the launch of the so-called G7+1 format, with meetings taking place at the end of each summit. As of the Denver Summit in 1997 – at the invitation of the U.S. and U.K. – Russia became a full member of the G8, albeit without participating in Finance Ministries meetings (a.k.a. finance track). The first Summit under Russian presidency was held in St. Petersburg in July 2006 while the second, originally scheduled to take place in 2014 in Sochi, was suspended due to the Ukrainian crisis and replaced by a G7 Summit held in Brussels, by way of exception, without Russian involvement.
The informal structure of the G7 has allowed for a gradual extension of its agenda. What started as a venue to coordinate economic and financial policies has become a prominent global governance forum covering all major foreign policy and development issues. Already in the 1980s, policy and security issues were introduced; in the 1990s, the Summit’s agenda extended to deal with new, cross-cutting issues such as trade, climate change and nuclear non-proliferation. Globalisation of the world economy and the new, complex challenges (fight against poverty, tackling climate change, protection of the environment, orderly migration management) have spurred the G7/G8 to pay greater attention to promoting dialogue with developing countries, particularly in Africa.
Already in the 1990s, the economic and financial crises that had affected a number of emerging economies in Latin America and Asia had persuaded G7 Finance Ministers of the