(Bloomberg) -- It was Giorgia Meloni’s show and she made sure everyone knew it. As the politically wounded went home, the Italian prime minister making her debut as a Group of Seven host looked more at ease with the leaders of the Global South.

The chemistry among G-7 attendees was decidedly off. The host did not take kindly to France’s Emmanuel Macron keeping her waiting at dinner. She and the UK’s Rishi Sunak shared an awkward greeting that saw her arch away from him, in one of the viral moments of the summit. She could barely make time for Olaf Scholz, who was tracking Germany playing in the Euro 2024 opener on his iPad. Many of these peers have either taken a electoral beating or could be headed into one. 

Meloni strategically placed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the center of the family photo and later posted a selfie clip of the two of them laughing as she urged followers to ship them as a geopolitical power couple: “Hello from the Melodi team.” She also lit up upon meeting Argentine President Javier Milei. The two joked and giggled — perhaps not surprising, given how much they see eye to eye on polarizing issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights. 

The guest of honor was Pope Francis, marking the first time ever that a pontiff has attended a G-7, and that set the tone for an event that typically should be focus on geopolitics. Meloni made a point of welcoming him out of his white helicopter in person, walking by his side as he was wheeled into the plenary room. The German chancellor, a self-declared atheist, didn’t hug the pope, and the Europeans were put out by Meloni’s decision to dig in and nix a direct reference to abortion that had previously been a fixture of the communique.

Macron told reporters that decision was “regrettable.” Meloni snapped back, via the Italian media, to accuse him of electioneering. The French president did seem distracted by the chaos he had unleashed back home, where he called a snap legislative election after suffering a drubbing in last week’s European parliamentary vote. Privately his G-7 peers expressed bafflement at such a risky gambit. One even wondered if he’d lost his mind.

Scholz, who, like Macron, took a beating at the hands of the far right, was also critical of Meloni. And even as they made pizza together and listened to tenor Andrea Bocelli bust out “Nessun Dorma” it was hard to paper over the cracks.

“She’s standing politically where she stands: at the far-right of Italy’s political spectrum,” Scholz told German broadcaster Welt on Saturday. “There are political differences which are very apparent. The result is that we are in very different party families.”

As the only leader present who was emboldened by European elections earlier this month, Meloni can afford not to care too much about what Scholz thinks. She’s got more political juice and may now strive for a bigger say in the horse trading over commission seats and the direction of the EU’s executive arm. She hinted as much in her final press conference, in which — speaking as clearly to the Italian electorate as those inside the room — she kept reiterating her thanks to the pontiff.

With a long guest list beyond the core G-7 attendees, the summit also struggled with its purpose. French officials noted that Meloni’s outreach was impressive but bemoaned a certain lack of intimacy to the gathering, lamenting that there were too few opportunities for informal chats by the pool. 

The Italian prime minister was far more interested in casting her net wider, to leaders in the Global South, and deepening her own connection with US President Joe Biden, with whom she has a personal affinity. That’s grounded partly in their shared Catholicism but also because she has taken her party into the mainstream and surprised the US by being such a staunch partner against China and Russia.

The tangible takeaways from the summit are clear. The meeting yielded a landmark agreement on $50 billion in fresh Ukraine loans financed by the proceeds of frozen Russian assets. It also came with new warnings about China’s economic threat and overcapacity, a call for Hamas to negotiate a peace in Gaza, and urging that Benjamin Netanyahu avoid a full-scale invasion of Rafah. 

A decade after the Group of Eight kicked out Vladimir Putin, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is now a defining issue of their meeting. But it’s hard to escape the signs of diminished G-7 power. Sunak could be ousted in just weeks, Biden faces an election this year and Kishida’s popularity is hovering near record lows.

There is tangible affection for Biden, who in a joint press conference with Volodymyr Zelenskiy swore “we’re not backing down” and then later led the group in singing happy birthday to Scholz. Incidentally, Trump turned 78 on the same day, and the specter of his return lingered in the air. Many in attendance hold dear Biden’s pledge to them in 2021: “America is back.” 

And Biden, at age 81, was watched carefully by other delegations — some of which see him irregularly, making the effects of his age feel more pronounced, according to officials attending the summit. One G-7 official said Biden was sharp and cogent when he jumped into the conversation about Ukraine, but was prone to zone out in the next moment. 

Another official, who admires Biden, said his age comes across physically — like with his walk and speech — and that an air of worry around the issue hung in the room. The official saw it as a risk in the election, which could usher in a rival far more adversarial with allies.

The White House spent part of the summit feuding with Rupert Murdoch, whose conservative media empire published a cropped video of Biden that left the impression he wandered from the rest of the group; the original video, with a wider lens, showed that he was in fact gesturing to parachuters nearby before Meloni gently redirected him.

For Biden himself, the timing was fraught — it was his second European trip in as many weeks, and came on the heels of his son’s conviction on gun crimes in Delaware. He brought some of his grandchildren on the trip with him to meet the pope, and bristled at a press conference where he was asked about Hunter Biden.

In a month’s time, he’ll be hosting a NATO summit in Washington and celebrating the bloc’s 75th anniversary. By then, perhaps some of the dust will have settled in Europe, though it’s almost certain that there will be a new prime minister in the G-7. 

Justin Trudeau didn’t appear to be having the best time in Italy — sharing a brief and possibly not-entirely voluntary interaction with Modi, whose government he accuses of killing a Sikh separatist in Canada. But if he’s still around next year, the new host of the G-7 will at least know what to expect.

--With assistance from Ania Nussbaum, Annmarie Hordern, Arne Delfs, Andrew Silke, Ellen Milligan, Chiara Albanese, Brian Platt and Jennifer Jacobs.

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