Expatica news

Bush calls for new transatlantic unity

21 February 2005

BRUSSELS – US President George W Bush has called for a “new era of transatlantic unity” in a keynote speech in Brussels.

“No passing disagreements in government, no power on earth will ever divide us,” he told a packed audience of Belgian, EU and NATO leaders.

The president stressed Washington’s support for a strong European Union, adding that America needed a “strong partner” to deal with the challenges of global politics.

At the outset of his ‘fence-mending’ trip to Europe, Bush chose to put transatlantic support for the Middle East peace process at the top of his priority list.

The world “must not rest” until a just and lasting solution was found to allow Palestinians and Israelis to live peacefully side by side.

“The future of our nations, the future of our peace depends on their hope, development and freedom,” he said.

Bush’s pronouncement that “Syria must end its occupation of Lebanon,” prompted spontaneous applause from his audience.

The applause was extended to his clear warning to Iran to stop supporting terrorists and not to develop nuclear weapons.

In an effort to calm European fears over climate change, Bush acknowledged that despite stark differences over the Kyoto protocol, both sides of the Atlantic could cooperate on emerging technologies to tackle global warming.

Bush began his European trip with a visit to the royal palace, where he and his wife were greeted by King Albert II and Queen Paola.

He then proceeded to a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt for talks on the Congo, Middle East and the Kyoto Protocol.

A spokesman for Verhofstadt said the meeting had been “very, very cordial,” and that Bush had even shared a joke about the Prime Minister’s cycling skills.

“Great to be back,” said President Bush, in a sign that relations between the Belgian and American governments had moved on dramatically from the icy period during the Iraq war.

Traffic in Brussels was circulating more freely than expected on Monday morning after commuters had been warned about potential chaos.

Roadblocks near the US embassy had not had a significant effect on traffic flows, said the Belgian police.

Despite the unprecedented security measures, traffic had only slowed because of the weather, said a police spokesman.

However, tightened security in the EU district on Tuesday will make it more difficult for workers to reach offices in the Schuman area.

Bush will visit the European Council and Commission on Tuesday afternoon after a morning at NATO headquarters.

Around 4,000 employees at the EU institutions have been told to stay at home for the day.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news