President Bush (left) and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa (AFP)
On his first major trip to Europe as U.S. president, George W. Bush visited Slovenia in 2001.
That is where he sat down for talks with then Russian President Vladimir Putin and famously declared that he had looked him in the eye and gotten "a sense of his soul."
Exactly seven years later, Bush is back at Brdo Castle near Ljubljana -- on his last major trip to Europe before he leaves office in January.
History has come full circle. But if anything, the problems facing the European Union and the United States and are even more numerous than they were in 2001.
At a briefing on June 4, Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said Iran would probably top the agenda at the June 10 meeting.
Hadley said Washington supports calls for other countries, particularly European countries, to put more pressure on Tehran over its refusal to abandon uranium enrichment.
But despite the broad interest in Iran, Hadley cautioned reporters not to expect many breakthroughs. He said Bush's talks with his European counterparts would cover what he called a "broad agenda" on issues of common interest to both the United States and Europe.
"I don't think you're going to see dramatic announcements on this trip," he said. "What you're going to see is working to advance the ball on a range of issues, looking toward forums where formal decisions will actually be taken."
And that is the word being put out by the EU as well.
RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reports that when it comes to big foreign-policy issues, EU officials are already looking ahead to working with Bush's successor -- be it John McCain or Barack Obama.
Many Issues, Little Change
The crises involving Kosovo and Georgia will be discussed, but the well-established positions of those involved aren't expected to change. Russia will surely be a topic of discussion, but Brussels is likely to allow Dmitry Medvedev to settle into his new role as Russian president before any new policy course is attempted.
Lower-key affairs will present the main sticking points at the summit. Among them are the World Trade Organization's currently stalled trade-liberalization talks, which Washington wants to bring to a conclusion before Bush leaves office. Both the United States and the EU would need to make major agricultural-trade concessions to Third World countries -- something that won't sit well with Brussels, considering the strong protectionist views of many of its members.
Another is climate change, where the EU wants the United States to agree to binding and quantifiable emission targets for greenhouse gases. On this point it is Washington that balks, and the feeling in Brussels is that no major developments will take place until the next U.S. president takes over.
The U.S. drive to strike bilateral visa-waiver deals with new EU member states also looms as a touchy subject. Older EU members, who want to negotiate such deals as a bloc, object to Washington's offer of visa-free travel to individual states in exchange for law enforcement cooperation and information exchanges on air passengers.
Ahead of Bush's trip to Europe, the European Parliament on June 8 adopted a resolution presenting a long list of grievances with Washington -- including U.S. missile-shield plans, the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, illegal renditions of terrorism suspects, and foot-dragging on climate change.
with additional agency reporting