Gothenburg, Sweden; 15 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush met EU leaders yesterday in Gothenburg to hold what he called "candid and constructive" talks on topical issues in U.S.-EU relations.
At a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson -- representing the current EU presidency -- and European Commission President Romano Prodi, Bush said the EU and United States shared "great" values and must keep their relationship "strong and healthy."
Swedish Prime Minister Persson said the summit had proved "productive," although neither side announced any immediate breakthroughs.
The two sides "agreed to disagree" -- in Persson's words -- about how to combat climate change, although it was decided that the EU and the United States would cooperate closely in researching the effects of climate change and ways of reversing them.
Persson and Prodi said the EU would stick to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and proceed with its ratification. No EU member countries have yet ratified the protocol.
Bush said that the United States recognized that climate change was a "serious issue" that needs a global response and a pooling of relevant scientific and technological resources. He said the U.S. withdrawal from Kyoto did not mean the United States would not be able to offer leadership in combating climate change.
Bush then spelled out the basics of the U.S. position, saying climate change can be combated without sacrificing economic growth. He added that all solutions must be market-driven and also global.
U.S. and EU leaders appeared to hold closer views on world trade, although agreement on when and how to hold another round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on liberalizing global trade still seems to be some time away. Persson said another round was needed as soon as possible, to give the stagnating global economy what he called a "new impetus."
Bush concentrated more on bilateral U.S.-EU trade relations, which form the most important trade axis in the world. He quoted the recent amicable resolution to the long-running banana debate as proof that both sides can cooperate.
The same message was repeated by Prodi, who addressed the trade disputes that have troubled bilateral U.S.-EU relations. He said the EU was interested in "talk rather than litigation" -- a reference to the frequent appearance of EU-U.S. disputes before WTO arbitration panels.
Officials at the summit also discussed the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Both sides agreed the situation was grave and needed immediate action. According to Persson, Bush had proposed to set up a UN-led fund, but he said further discussions were needed about how the EU could be involved.
The two sides also briefly discussed the situation in Macedonia and the Middle East. Persson said the sides had agreed that, as they had "gone in" together in the Balkans, they must also come out together.
On the Middle East, a first-ever joint U.S.-EU statement was adopted, which says both sides must accept the results of the so-called Mitchell Report, which lays out a specific course of action for pursuing peace in the region. It also says all sides must stick to the cease-fire and eventually resume peace talks.
Responding to a question from a journalist at the end of the press conference, President Bush also took the opportunity to spell out his views on the future of the EU. He said he was not disturbed by the EU's ambition to soon replace the United States as the world's biggest and most dynamic economy.
Amplifying a strong belief in free trade and the superiority of market-based solutions, which has informed most of his views throughout the conference, Bush said the stronger the EU was the better it was for the United States. He said he was more concerned about isolationism and protectionism, which he said had supporters on both sides.
Bush also said he believed both NATO and the EU should enlarge eastwards. He said it was particularly important that both NATO and the EU engage Russia and emphasize that the Cold War is over and that there is nothing to fear in the expansion of the European Union.
Bush said that at the same time the EU must "welcome" both Russia and Ukraine, extending to them free trade and helping both countries make the "right institutional choices."