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Paris terror: New focus for G20

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the most deadly violence to strike France since World War Two, world leaders are convening on Sunday and Monday for the G20 summit in Turkey. The meeting, whose agenda now includes the attacks and their aftermath, will also focus on the migrant crisis in the Middle East and Europe, and could thus become one of the most important G20 summits since the April 2009 meeting that addressed the global financial crisis.

Collectively, the G20 presidents and prime ministers lead countries that account for some 90 percent of global GDP, 80 percent of world trade, and around 66 percent of the global population. They have already pledged their support to the French authorities, who remain on crisis alert with 1,500 extra military personnel stationed across Paris.

The response to Islamic State, already on the G20 agenda, will no doubt take greater precedent after Friday’s attacks. So, too, will the issue of security as it relates to the migrant crisis — a concern that was underscored on Saturday, when Poland announced that it will no longer accept migrants under an EU quota system unless it received security guarantees.

Security concerns have been sparked by the fact that one of the dead gunmen in Paris reportedly held a Syrian passport, and according to a Greek authority had entered the EU through the Greek island of Leros on Oct. 3.

Turkey, the summit host country, has already taken in some 2 million refugees from the Middle East, mainly from Syria and Iraq.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has separately warned that disorder could erupt in the Balkan states if Germany were to close its borders to refugees, as a sizeable group of German MPs have considered.

Summit participants will call for greater aid from a wider spread of G20 states because of what the EU considers the global nature of the migrant crisis. Meanwhile, EU leaders will be doubling-down on their diplomacy with Turkey to offer even greater incentives, including the possibility of progress in its bid to join the EU, in exchange for Ankara agreeing to resettle the bulk of the refugees currently within its borders, so that fewer travel onward to Europe.

A second humanitarian agenda item will focus on a final collective push toward a new global climate treaty at the UN’s landmark climate change summit in Paris next month, as well as implementation of the UN’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development, which seeks to “end poverty and hunger everywhere,” among other goals.

The G20 meeting also has a sizeable economic agenda. The standout item is the move toward a more transparent global tax structure for the world’s largest companies, to help prevent tax evasion and the flow of illegal funds.

G20 leaders will also consider a plan designed to reduce by some 15 percent the number of young people most in danger of being permanently left behind in the job market.

If history is any guide, the full scope of these plans may not come to fruition. The forum has so far failed to live up to the expectations that accompanied its creation, in part because it has no formal mechanisms to ensure that participants will carry out the agreements they make there.

But with the Paris attacks now on the agenda, the G20 leaders have the potential to make real progress on counterterrorism policy. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the host of the summit, has emphasized that “we are now at a point where words ends in the fight against terrorism,” suggesting G20 leaders may agree on actions that would turn the screw further on Islamic State.

Now more than ever, the world is watching.-Reuters