President Bush is stressing U.S. support for a strong European Union, as the EU deals with some deep differences within its ranks.
These are tense times for the European Union. A two-day EU summit ended in anger and bitterness Friday. Members failed to reach agreement on major money matters, and supporters of a European Constitution were forced to put the measure on hold following its rejection by voters in France and the Netherlands.
President Bush made no direct mention of the strains when he appeared before reporters with European Union leaders. Instead, he talked about the need for a strong Europe working in partnership with the U.S
"The United States continues to support a strong European Union as a partner in spreading freedom and democracy and security and prosperity throughout the world. My message to these leaders and these friends was we a Europe strong so we can work together to achieve important objectives and important goals," Mr. Bush said.
The president noted that the EU and the United States are co-hosting a conference this week in Brussels to mobilize international help for Iraq. He said that differences over the war have been put aside and said the conference will send "an important signal."
The outgoing EU president agreed. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker did not support the American-led invasion of Iraq, but played a key role in organizing the gathering in Brussels.
"Although some of us had some differences and divergencies with the U.S. when it came to Iraq, the fact that we are co-organizing and co-sharing this very important Iraq conference is showing that when it comes to substance, when it comes to progress, when it comes to democracy, to freedom and to liberty, both the US and the European Union are cooperating closely together and working in the same direction," Mr. Juncker said.
|Jose Manuel Durao Barroso|
Also participating in the talks was the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. He spoke of enhanced cooperation between the United States and Europe not just on Iraq, but on Iran, the Middle East peace process, and a number of economic issues.
He acknowledged the European Union has gone through some growing pains as it has expanded to 25, and soon 27, members. But he said the institution is strong.
"In this process [enlargement and enhancement of the EU] some problems may occur. But the opinion is there. We are on business," Mr. Barroso said. "We are deciding. We are taking decisions everyday, internally and externally, and we are committed to this very close relationship with the United States."
The U.S.-European dialogue will continue next month when President Bush travels to Scotland for the annual Group of Eight Summit. Britain, which is hosting the summit, will also be taking over the revolving European Union presidency for the second half of the year.