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Biden to attend Germany's G-7 meeting this weekend; Blinken talks food security at UN


Across the show today, we are hearing reaction to the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision that effectively overturns Roe v. Wade. But for now, we're going to head to Europe, where President Biden will be this weekend for a G-7 meeting in Germany before he travels on to Madrid for a NATO summit. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Berlin today to join a U.N. conference on food security. And the backdrop to all of this, of course, is the war in Ukraine. For more, we're joined now by NPR's Rob Schmitz in Berlin. Hey, Rob.


CHANG: So I want to start with yet another summit that's wrapping up today, a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels where they granted candidate status to both Ukraine and Moldova, calling it, quote, "a good day for Europe." What will this mean exactly for Ukraine and Russia's war there, you think?

SCHMITZ: Well, for Ukraine, it means an injection of hope at a time when Kyiv could really use it. I mean, today marks four months since Russia invaded Ukraine. And the war has destroyed entire cities and displaced millions of Ukrainians. And now that the country is an official candidate to become an EU member, it shows Russia that Ukrainians are looking West, not East, for their future. EU leaders are - also talked about the energy crisis today caused by the war and how to navigate all of this.

CHANG: OK. And I imagine that's going to be a big talking point at the G-7 summit - right? - which kicks off this weekend in the German Alps.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, that's right. Initially, Germany, the host country of this G-7 summit, put climate change and the pandemic as the two top issues on the agenda. But with the war in Ukraine, that will likely mean more time will be taken to discuss the economic and geopolitical problems that the war has caused. I spoke to Sudha David-Wilp about this. She's the deputy director of the German Marshall Fund Berlin office.

SUDHA DAVID-WILP: Russia's war against Ukraine has already put the fight against climate change on the back burner. If you look at Germany, for example, the economics minister Robert Habeck just had to recently announce more use of coal to power the German economy since the natural gas from Russia is being weaponized. And so I think that climate change is already put on the back burner, but it's super-important for the G-7 to not let it slip.

SCHMITZ: And, Ailsa, it's worth noting here that yesterday Germany's government triggered an alarm stage of its emergency gas plan after Russia's Gazprom cut gas on one of its pipelines to Germany by more than 50%. And that's forcing Germany to make plans to burn more coal.

CHANG: And we should note what's interesting this time around is that countries like Argentina, India, Indonesia and African countries like Senegal and South Africa, they're going to be attending this G-7 meeting even though they are not G-7 countries, right?

SCHMITZ: Right. And they were invited because climate change is front and center for these countries, but also because food insecurity, which the war in Ukraine has exacerbated, is also a really big concern. Host country Germany is especially interested in having these countries attend the summit because they want to show them and basically countries on other continents that Russia's war in Ukraine is not just a regional conflict, but that this has wider ripple effects across the planet.

CHANG: You just mentioned food security. As we said, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Berlin today for a U.N. conference on that very issue. What was discussed there?

SCHMITZ: Well, food security is becoming an incredibly important issue for so many countries. Last year, 160 million people suffered from food shortages, and that number went up to 200 million after the war in Ukraine started. Secretary Blinken called on the U.N. to invest more into the World Food Program. And U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it's a real risk that multiple famines will be declared later this year.

CHANG: That is NPR's Rob Schmitz in Berlin. Thank you so much, Rob.

SCHMITZ: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.

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