chapter  10
G7 summits, European Councils and East–West economic relations (1975–1982)
Pages 25

Economic relations with the Communist bloc in a Cold War context have always been a matter of debate within the West due to different assessments of the Soviet threat and ensuing policy responses. The question arises whether the innovative practice of summitry that emerged in the mid-1970s represented a further opportunity for Western leaders to try and reconcile positions and agree on common guidelines, if not common policies, on East-West relations. The question is valid for both European Council gatherings and G7 summits. Based on recently released primary sources from European and US archives, this chapter questions the relevance of summitry in the Western debate on economic relations with the East. The proposed analysis follows in chronological order; however, it does not cover every summit. The chapter offers a comparison of summits in the mid-1970s and the early 1980s respectively, in the attempt to identify the determinants of a summit’s successful outcome in relation to the following points: consensus among participants and trust-building; coordination of policies; and endorsement of actual measures. The chapter will focus mostly on G7 summits, though the connection between the latter and the European Council meetings will be duly explored. It is ultimately argued that a summit’s scope and effectiveness was a direct function of the already-existing consensus on policy towards the East as well as the status of East-West relations at the specific moment. In other words, as far as East-West relations are concerned, summits did not prove useful in favouring reconciliation of divergent positions, and at times even engendered misunderstandings. That said, when participants’ stances were similar, summits allowed for improved coordination of policies and even adoption of actual common measures.