European Union leaders have converged on Brussels for a two-day summit set against the backdrop of President Bush's re-election victory. There are several items on the meeting's agenda, but the search for a fresh relationship with the Bush administration is likely to dominate the first day of the talks.
The European Union hopes to repair a strained relationship with Washington, and one area where it is offering to help is in the reconstruction of Iraq.
Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will be joining the EU leaders on Friday, as the bloc considers striking a trade deal with the war-torn country. EU diplomats say the union may also help the Iraqis build up their police force and their legal system, and give technical support to Iraq's scheduled elections in January.
Nearly half of the EU member states opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and many of their governments hoped that U.S. voters would elect Democratic candidate John Kerry. But they know they will have to live with Mr. Bush for the next four years. And they are waiting to see if Mr. Bush adopts a triumphalist tone or a softer, gentler one.
For now, EU officials like outgoing European Commission president Romano Prodi are accentuating the positive.
"I do wish, and I hope, that, in the next four years, we put forward our cooperation that was so successful in spite of the differences in the Iraqi war, so successful in many fields, in the economic field, the political field and, really, in fighting against terrorism," he said.
And Jan-Peter Balkenende, the Dutch prime minister who is chairing the summit that ends Friday, says healing the trans-Atlantic rift is a priority.
"After the U.S. elections, it is necessary to strengthen the ties between the United States and Europe, and, also, yesterday, you could hear the comments of many heads of government in Europe that they underlined the importance of good trans-Atlantic ties," he said.
A similar message of looking forward, rather than back, came from Rockwell Schnabel, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
"Obviously, the Bush administration itself is planning to renew its reach-out to Europe, and I think that is going to be very clearly high on the agenda," he said.
There are still tensions that must be dealt with. Washington takes a stronger line on what it says is Iran's ambition to develop nuclear weapons than the European Union does. France wants the European Union to lift its arms embargo on China. The United States opposes any such step.
But one area in which the European Union hopes to enlist the support of the second Bush administration is the revitalization of the Middle East peace process. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush's staunchest ally, has described the Israeli-Palestinian impasse as the most pressing political problem in the world today.