European officials have reacted favorably to President Bush's call for greater trans-Atlantic unity and his support for the idea of a strong, integrated Europe. The emphasis on renewed partnership in Mr. Bush's speech Monday overshadowed doubts some Europeans have about his ambition to spread freedom to the Middle East.
European officials see Mr. Bush's stress on the need for America and Europe to work together to face global challenges as the start of a conversation to replace what one described as the monologue that Europe was accustom to hearing from Washington.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana says Washington's new tone will facilitate the rebuilding of what he describes as a normal relationship that will allow Europe and America to tackle pressing world problems like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict together. "When we do work together, things get better results than when we do not go along on the same wavelength," he said.
Mr. Bush's reiteration of his commitment to an Israeli and a Palestinian state living side by side and his vow that the world will not rest until there is peace between them was, in the words of one European diplomat, a sign that he is energized about finding a solution to what many Europeans believe is the world's most dangerous conflict. The president's call on Israel to stop building settlements in occupied territory and to make sure a Palestinian state is not made up of scattered pockets of land was well received among Mr. Solana's aides.
These aides stress that the United States and Europe already agree on what has to be done to ensure peace between Israelis and Palestinians. They also say that Washington and Brussels are ready to work together to help stabilize Iraq.
In reality, says Keith Didcock, the deputy director of the Foreign Policy Center, a London think tank, both sides of the Atlantic do have common goals. But they sometimes disagree about how to achieve them. "There are differences in methodology, but not necessarily in desired outcomes. And it is the complementarity (sic) in desired outcomes that we need to focus on," he said.
Mr. Solana says one of the issues the two sides agree on is getting Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, although the Europeans prefer to do that through diplomatic means while the Americans take a tougher line and hold out the threat of sanctions. "We're working together on Iran. The Americans are supporting us on the decision that we have taken now with the commitment that we have the same objective: no more weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East," he said.
Mr. Bush got a rousing ovation from his audience when he called for a strong Europe. Mr. Didcock says the president was acknowledging that Europe can only be an effective ally for America if it is strong and united. "There is now actually recognition that a strong, more independent Europe is actually a vital plank of U.S. security, that Europe can only actually play a full partnership role if it actually has a little bit more independent clout."
Despite the fence-mending tone of Mr. Bush's speech, some European officials are skeptical about Mr. Bush's appeal for Europe to join the United States in spreading freedom around the world.
One diplomat wondered whether it was a call for genuine partnership or an invitation to simply fall in behind him. In the view of another official, Mr. Bush seemed to be saying that Europe shares the American values of freedom and democracy so it has the duty to do what Mr. Bush says needs to be done.