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Bush to Discuss Energy Prices, Economy at EU Summit


U.S. President George Bush is in Slovenia for talks with the leaders of the European Union. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports from Ljubljana the agenda includes economic and security matters.

These trans-Atlantic summits have traditionally focused on economic issues. And President Bush says he is eager to discuss money matters with the leaders of the European Union.

"The U.S. economy has continued to grow in the face of unprecedented challenges," he said. "We [have] got to keep our economies flexible; both the U.S. economy and European economies need to be flexible in order to deal with today's challenges."

He says he wants to talk to them about joint action to address the high cost of energy. He says currency issues will also be discussed, including concerns about the strength of the U.S. dollar.

"I will talk about our nation's commitment to a strong dollar," said President Bush. "A strong dollar is in our nation's interests. It is in the interests of the global economy."

In recent years, these summits have also begun to tackle trans-Atlantic security concerns. And the White House says the talks at a castle just outside Ljubljana will cover efforts to ease tensions in the Balkans and bring peace to the Middle East.

President Bush has made clear he is eager to talk about Iran's nuclear program. And as he left the White House, he left no doubt he wants to talk to the Europeans about stepping up their commitment to the young democracy in Afghanistan.

"The countries I am going to have committed troops to Afghanistan, and I, of course, want to thank them, and remind them there is a lot of work to be done," he said.

White House officials say they expect no dramatic announcements following the president's talks with European Union leaders in Slovenia, which currently holds the six-month rotating E.U. presidency.

In addition to Slovenia's prime minister, European Union participants in the talks will include European Commission President Jose Barroso, and E.U. security chief Javier Solana.

Experts in trans-Atlantic relations say they have seen a shift in President Bush's attitude toward dealings with Europe that is bearing fruit at the end of his term.

John K. Glenn is head of the foreign policy program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

He says President Bush has made a concerted effort since his re-election in 2004 to move beyond differences with Europe over Iraq.

"And so we kind of set aside Iraq off the trans-Atlantic agenda as a way to look at these other issues because there is certainly enough to be done and enough pressure on both the United States and Europe," said Glenn.

After the summit talks with E.U. leaders, President Bush will head to Germany where he will mark the 60th anniversary of the implementation of the Marshall Plan and the Berlin airlift. He will then travel to Italy, France and the United Kingdom.