So is the challenge to legitimacy and the inability of the G7/8 today to solve key global problems - global finance, and climate change but two key problems - leading the Great powers to welcome enlargement? No. That’s not it exactly. The current enlargement plans - if that is what the HP process is (more on that in a moment) - appears to have been built on earlier enlargement efforts of the G7/8. In fact the G7/8 as great power organization, is itself a product of enlargement, since its initiation in 1975 was 5 and today is somewhat imperfectly the G8.

But enlargement models have periodically arisen. Thus, much praise has accompanied the emergence - at the Finance ministerial level - of the G20 created after the Asian financial crisis. In this forum China, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa included as well as a range of middle powers such as Korea, Australia, Argentina, Taiwan, Hong Kong Singapore, Indonesia and Turkey. Assessing G20 effectiveness, John Kirton in his Economic Statecraft chapter entitled, “From G8 2003 to G13 2010? The Heiligendamm Process’s Past, Present and Future,” argues, “But careful analyses conclude that the G20 has increasingly become a valuable and valued balanced centre of global governance across an increasingly wide range of fields.”

The most notable proposal for enlargement of the summit leaders forum has been the L20 - a proposal of the short-lived Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin. Martin built this proposal on the recognized success of the G20 and saw the L20 as a successor to a G8 Plus Five process that emerged after 2003. But the L20 seemingly has lost momentum to the currently more developed Heiligendamm Process. If that is so, is it but a matter of time say 2009 when the HP process is to be completed with a Report to the G8 under the Italian presidency in 2009?

Well again from the Great power G8 members is an outcome of enlargement the natural conclusion - well not exactly. It is worth distinguishing two matters in considering G8 enlargement: first the views and attitudes of the current G8 members about the effectiveness and purposes of the Great power club and then the proposed process - the HP process.

The view from the G7/8 capitals differs. As John Kirton has suggested, “…there was also a defining divide between an enthusiastic European four and an opposed Pacific four, with Russia for this purpose privately a member of the reluctant Pacific power club.” And even within each group opinions are varied.

But let’s for a moment focus on the enthusiastic Europeans. The ‘three’ - France, the United Kingdom and Germany have, through their political leaders, openly promoted expansion of the G8 to a G13. Both France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s Gordon Brown have openly called for the conclusion of the HP to be the G13. Germany, though it has favored expansion, has made it clear that the procedural frame of the HP is key.

The remaining European member is Italy. With the Italian election, what had been a club of 4 may only be three or three and a half, according to John. The new Italian government led by Silvio Berlusconi has made it clear that it will emphasize Africa again when it hosts in 2009 and thus African leaders as well as the O5 leaders will be invited to a meeting where the final HP Report will be delivered.

As for Russia, though it publicly has supported an expansion to a G13 privately Russia has resisted the move suggesting that a move to a full G8 is a priority task. This position has not changed with the election of the new Russian President Dimitry Medvedev.

As for the rest of the Pacific four we have various degrees of hesitation if not outright opposition. Japan is the strongest opponent of enlargement. The Japanese remained unclear for some time following Heiligendamm whether it was ready to extend an invitation to the O5 to attend Hokkaido. And in the end Japan encouraged the United States to invite the Major Economies Meeting (MEM) for the final day at Hokkaido. The MEM consists of 16 members - including the major carbon emitters to discuss climate change. While this group includes the O5 it enlarges well beyond it.

Japan has also invited Australia, South Korea and Indonesia to the G8 summit. These invitations have broadened the invitation list and taken the focus away from the O5 at Hokkaido. The Japanese government has suggested that it favors expansion without committing however to an O5 path. It has also spoken out in favor of the size of the G7/8 and raised concern over an expansion of the club leading away from effective summit discussion. Finally, it has raised concern over the inclusion of South Africa but more particularly China.

Canada as the smallest of the current G8 and it appears to fear marginalization and dilution of influence. As John Kirton has suggested, “Its instinct was thus toward continuity, incremental expansion, and meeting the demand for expansion through other forums.”

And, as for the United States, it is dubious about expansion concerned that with the larger grouping, the effectiveness of the leaders summit will be lost. Indeed the US was dubious about the HP process feeling this structured dialogue was potentially wasted time and effort. It is not yeat clear what the new US administration will express over expansion.

For the current German leadership expansion is required but process is key. A successful structured dialogue as established by the HP process is necessary, according the Merkel government. Expansion should first take the form of an HP-like dialogue, “to show that such a forum would add value and work.”

Thus assessing the current picture, many current leaders are markedly hesitant to call for expansion, or expansion of this O5, not withstanding the growing recognition that the current G7/8 may be unable to lead in critical areas of global governance. And the O5? Where do they stand on expansion?

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.