War and wine on G7 agenda as Sunak leaves campaign trail for Italian summit

US president Joe Biden and Japan's prime minister Fumio Kishida are attending the summit alongside Rishi Sunak and Giorgia Meloni
US president Joe Biden and Japan's prime minister Fumio Kishida are attending the summit alongside Rishi Sunak and Giorgia Meloni - Guglielmo Mangiapane/REUTERS

It has hosted the likes of Madonna, the Beckhams and Justin Timberlake, but a luxury resort in southern Italy will today receive the leaders of the democratic world as they gather for a three-day G7 summit.

Rishi Sunak will join the leaders of the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy to discuss the war in Ukraine and other global issues at the Borgo Egnazia resort in Puglia.

The heel of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula, the sunbaked region of Puglia has become so popular with British and other expats that it is dubbed “Trullishire”, after the conical-roofed traditional “trulli” houses that dot the landscape of olive groves and wheat fields.

On Thursday evening, the G7 leaders and their partners will be whisked by helicopter to a formal dinner in a 13th-century castle in the port of Brindisi, on the coast of Puglia.

The summit, which is being hosted by Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s prime minister, has much to deliberate on - from using seized Russian financial assets to help the Ukrainians, to tackling China’s support for Moscow in the conflict, to the war in Gaza.

Three of the seven leaders are gearing up for high-stakes elections in the coming weeks and months
Three of the seven leaders are gearing up for high-stakes elections in the coming weeks and months - Yara Nardi/REUTERS

But the gathering has already been written off by some as a “lame duck” summit before it has barely started.

It is being held at a time of great political uncertainty - three of the seven leaders are gearing up for high-stakes elections in the coming weeks and months.

Mr Sunak faces almost certain defeat on July 4, Emmanuel Macron has staked his future on a high-stakes snap election at the end of June and Joe Biden could lose to Donald Trump in the US elections in November.

Agathe Demarais, a senior police fellow at the European Council on foreign relations, said: “This unusual political context means that the American, British and French leaders will be in wait-and-see mode as they await to know their political fates.

“As a result, substantive progress on key issues is unlikely.”

“A summit of lame ducks,” was the uncompromising judgment of La Repubblica newspaper on Thursday.

Not only do the leaders of the UK, France and the US face stiff electoral challenges, but Olaf Scholz has been shaken by the success of the far-Right AfD party in the European elections, the paper said in a long editorial.

Of the European leaders, only Ms Meloni has emerged triumphant from the EU vote, the Left-leaning daily said.

An aerial view of the Borgo Egnazia resort where the likes of Madonna, the Beckhams and Justin Timberlake have stayed
An aerial view of the Borgo Egnazia resort where the likes of Madonna, the Beckhams and Justin Timberlake have stayed - GIUSEPPE LAMI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Still, there will be sunshine to enjoy, as well as the delights of Italian cuisine.

A local ice cream maestro, Enzo Iannacone, has come up with seven new flavours of gelato, one for each of the G7 leaders - although it won’t be served to the leaders themselves.

On the menu at the castle dinner will be traditional dishes from Puglia, including locally caught fish such as snapper.

Regional wines will be served, followed by amaro, the classic Italian after-dinner digestif.

An aperitif will be followed by an “informal dinner” hosted by Ms Meloni.

On Friday, there will be a performance by Andrea Bocelli, the world-famous Italian tenor, amid the piazzas and swimming pools of Borgo Egnazia.

A welcome cake for the participants of the G7 summit to Puglia
A welcome cake for the participants of the G7 summit to Puglia - DONATO FASANO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Also invited to attend are heads of state or government from a host of other countries, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, and Narendra Modi, prime minister of India.

There will also be Javier Milei, Argentina’s mercurial leader, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, and senior officials from the IMF, the World Bank and the African Union.

Pope Francis, no less, will also make an appearance, speaking about the dangers posed by artificial intelligence. He will become the first pontiff ever to take part in a G7 summit.

On Thursday, Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, will attend a discussion on the progress of the war and is expected to press for more help from Western allies.

The G7 leaders hope to bash out an agreement on using the profits from the interest on $300 billion (£235 billion) of frozen Russian central bank assets to help Kyiv in its fight against Putin’s forces.

All of this will be taking part far from the gaze of the hundreds of journalists assigned to the event: they are being consigned to a media centre in the port of Bari, nearly 40 miles away from the summit venue.