Regular meetings of heads of state and government seem, in 2012, a common feature of international affairs. About forty years ago, however, such meetings did not really exist: ad hoc summits were the rule. Comparing the emergence of the European Council in 1974 and the G7 in 1975, this article explains why and how summitry has become routine in international politics.
This chapter explores one of the very distinctive features of the organisation of G7 summits, namely the group of personal representatives, or ‘sherpas’. Following a prosopographical approach, the study highlights a number of common characteristics among sherpas, in spite of the potential heterogeneity of this group. It further underscores the ambiguity of the G7 as an institution as well as the web of complex relations in which the G7 has embedded itself over time.