Accessibility links

Central European Leaders Agree to Resolve Differences Over Iraq - 2003-05-23

Central European heads of state have agreed to resolve differences and work with the United States on Iraq and other issues.

Seventeen presidents from central, southern and eastern Europe met in Salzburg for a two-day summit to discuss "Europe Beyond Enlargement".

The host is Austrian president Thomas Klestil, a former ambassador to Washington. Mr. Klestil said the European Union should develop a common foreign policy.

Transatlantic relations and the splits in Europe over the Iraq war occupied much of the agenda for the heads of state. German president, Johannes Rau, said he felt part of old Europe.

"I like to be part of old Europe because old Europe was always open for the new, otherwise there would never have been any new Europe," he said.

President Rau was referring to a comment made some months ago by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who called Iraq war opponents Germany and France part of old Europe.

On Friday, the European presidents agreed that the continent and the United States share the same values of freedom and democracy. President Klestil said they must work together in spite of their differences on issues where they agree, like the fight against international terrorism.

"Close collaboration between Europe and the United States is of the utmost importance," the president said.

This sentiment was endorsed by all the participants.

Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, a strong U.S. supporter, said Europe must be strong, but must also be a friend of the United States.

"European policy cannot be against the U.S.," he said.

Next month Poland votes in a referendum on joining the European Union.

The Salzburg summit was attended by the presidents of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Rumania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Hungary and Austria.