AFP: US President George W. Bush will be in Vienna Wednesday for an EU-US summit that comes at a time when the two sides differ over Guantanomo Bay and CIA prisoner flights but are united on Iran. by Michael Adler
VIENNA, June 19, 2006 (AFP) – US President George W. Bush will be in Vienna Wednesday for an EU-US summit that comes at a time when the two sides differ over Guantanomo Bay and CIA prisoner flights but are united on Iran.
“The trip is an opportunity to reaffirm the strong relationship between the United States and the European Union,” US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley told reporters last week in Washington about the summit.
The United States has faced intense criticism over the alleged secret transfer of prisoners through Europe by the CIA and has faced calls to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for terror suspects in Cuba following the recent suicide of three detainees.
Politicians and human rights organisations have called on Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, the current EU president, to bring up these issues when he meets with Bush.
According to a Gallup poll in last week’s NEWS weekly, 72 percent of Austrians see the American president as “unfriendly” and as many say he represents a threat to world peace.
But Schuessel said Sunday that transatlantic relations “have clearly become easier recently.”
He was referring, in an interview with the Kurier newspaper, to the improvement in relations after the low point when some EU countries alienated the United States by opposing the US-led war against Iraq in 2003.
The United States and the 25-nation EU now have a common line on trying to get Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions, with Washington even ready to join in EU-led talks with the Islamic Republic if Tehran agrees to suspend uranium enrichment.
Schuessel said however that points of disagreement, such as Guantanomo and the CIA flights will “of course” be brought up when he, along with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso meets with Bush.
Other matters to be discussed will include the fight against global warming, which the United States has so far refused to join as it rejects the Kyoto Procotol on limiting the emission of greenhouse gases.
Bush will fly on to Budapest on Thursday for ceremonies on the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising against Soviet-led communist rule.
Hadley said the EU-US summit “will focus on three areas where we can cooperate to make a safer and better world: promoting freedom and democracy, enhancing security, and pursuing greater global prosperity.”
Hadley said about questions of human rights violations by US soldiers in Iraq, such as alleged killings in Haditha: “What the President has made very clear on is, in terms of Haditha, for example, there is at least two investigations underway to get to the bottom of it.”
The United States also insists that the Guantanamo prison is necessary in the war against terrorism and says all CIA flights are in accordance with US and other nations laws, particularly against torture.
But Austrian right-wing populist Joerg Haider, whose group is part of Schuessel’s government coalition, told the Die Presse newspaper Saturday that Bush “is a war criminal. He brought about the war against Iraq deliberately, with lies and falsehoods.”
Beyond such rhetoric, the real businness at the Vienna summit will be economic.
The EU and the United States are world economic leaders and major partners, with 1.7 billion dollars (1.3 billion euros) per day in trade.
Conflicts, such as counter-claims between aeronautical giants Airbus and Boeing before the World Trade Organization that each get unfair subsidies from their governments, affect less than two percent of this commerce.
The main initiative at the summit is expected to be a campaign to protect intellectual property rights, which would mainly be directed to stop counterfeit products coming in from China and Russia.
This campaign will call for tightened customs cooperation, joint action against counterfeiters in their countries of origin and increased collaboration with the private sector on fighting the spread of counterfeit goods.