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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 18:03 GMT
Can Bush rebuild bridges in Europe?
President George W Bush
We discussed President Bush's visit to Europe with Karsten Voigt from the German Foreign Ministry and Nato spokesman, James Appathurai.


US President George W Bush has returned to Washington at the end of a five-day tour designed to ease strained relations between Europe and the US.

The whistle-stop visit took in Belgium, Germany and Slovakia, as Mr Bush met a series of EU and Nato leaders.

President Bush has made strenuous efforts to heal divisions over the US-led war in Iraq and promote transatlantic unity.

But there have also been frank discussions on China arms sales, Iran's nuclear ambitions, Russian democracy and arms sales to Syria.

Do you think the US president's European tour has been a success? What should be Mr Bush's priorities in Europe?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:

SUGGEST A DEBATE
This topic was suggested by Thomas Paul, Cyprus
Will the visit by President George W Bush help to rebuild the damaged relationship between the US and Europe?

Bottom line. In 20 plus years Old Europe will be in complete collapse, an increasing shadow of itself swallowed up by demographics, economics and moral decay. We here on the other side of the ocean will always stay in touch but increasingly it will be out of politeness and nostalgia but not necessity. The future is somewhere else.
John Chagnon, St. Paul, MN, USA

Have just come back from the USA, I cannot say that I found a rift between the ordinary American and European. All ordinary people are too busy living and getting on with their own lives to worry about what the politicians are saying and doing. The only rift that needs to be healed is between the political institutions and the media on both sides of the Atlantic. As soon as the media stops inflaming the situation, the sooner things will get back to normal.
Derek Betson, Switzerland

The US is still haemorrhaging money in Iraq and knows it must try to get Europe to take part in rebuilding the country to relieve strain on the US economy. I don't think Bush will ever provide the loyalty needed to build the required trust of Europe.
Robert Munro, London, UK

The Bush administration's change in rhetoric towards Europe is more than welcome. However, there is still the question of whether this heralds a profound change in foreign policy, or whether the rhetoric remains just that - rhetoric.
Michael Zeigermann, London, UK

Talks were mainly done on the issues of US interests
Shib SenChaudhury, Calcutta, India
The strain in relation between US and Europe, created by Bush administration was given a chance of revival last week. But talks were mainly done on the issues of US interests. This tour wasn't organised to rebuild relations, but to collect Europe's favour on certain US interests. Had there been discussions on Kyoto treaty, then it would have been a step towards rebuilding relations with Europe to a vast extend.
Shib SenChaudhury, Calcutta, India

The EU and the US actually share similar goals (promotion of democracy, capitalism, universal human rights etc.). Disagreements are mainly over the means: the US is more willing and capable to use force, Europe sees military force as a last resort. The EU should work with the US to achieve their common goals multilaterally.
Martin Koehring, Aberystwyth, UK

The phrase "Old Europe" was used in a negative way by the US Administration when we did not accept the political dogma being presented by Mr. Bush and his Administration after 9/11. It is good to see Bush in Europe being presented with a Europe that is not at all "Old" and a force that he must now recognise, respect and no longer patronise.
Rene, Brighton, England

Any bridges repaired will be done with glue, not mortar. Europeans may seem content to keep up appearances but below the surface lies great tension which would easily come out if America 'goes it alone' again.
Alan Burnett, New Zealand

The bridge should be built from both directions. I have yet to hear Mr Bush say anything that should be considered offensive to our European allies. Is Iraq a better place without Saddam Hussein? I don't believe that the government is sponsoring torture anymore. Is China a threat? They are trying to become a nuclear superpower, I think they are an emerging threat. Should Russia stay the course with Democracy? I still remember the cold war and Europe was always threatened by the Soviet Union. I believe that Europeans and Americans can't afford not to be friends.
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio

The comments in this column demonstrates that there is a rift between if not all, then a substantial number of US citizens and Europeans. Many Europeans do not look at the US as a true democracy, it is governed by the monied oligarchy. Parts of Europe are certainly more democratic although hardly perfect. The rift between Europe and the US will exist for as long as the present administration is in office. But why should Europe care when the US does not?
Hegre, Bergen, Norway

The rift is not as bad as Bush's detractors would have us believe.
Rob G., Kansas City, USA
I don't believe that the bridges need to be rebuilt, maybe just a few major repairs and a new coat of paint. The rift is not as bad as Bush's detractors would have us believe. We would be there for each other in a time of need.
Rob G., Kansas City, USA

The bridges will never be rebuilt until the real issues are explored. What exactly is it that makes US unilateralism so much more offensive than the tyranny that occurs in other places of the world. Even if the most cynical conspiracy theories of the U.S. are true, does that truly make the US the type of nation it is being vilified as, and worthy of such pronounced scepticism and protest? Europeans have in large part looked down on America and its people long before President Bush arrived. The US is not all powerful, it's just very influential because of its capacity and willingness to act effect change. Europe's influence in global affairs suffers not from it's capacity, but it's willingness. The same can be said of Russia and China (for now). Europe's relations with the US will be restored when it recovers its lost pride and confidence.
James Kelley, Brooklyn, NY, USA

I don't feel that Bush should concentrate on rebuilding bridges in relation to Europe. Those were burned to ashes before he was re-elected. What he needs to do is concentrate on the US's domestic issues. This means concentrating on Social Security, health care, energy prices, unemployment and the like. It seems like all he can concentrate on his international War on Terror and his domestic war on Civil Liberties and Rights.
Brian, Kentucky, USA

If Bush is building bridges it is for him to cross and him alone. I doubt if the 'bridge' is there for people to meet in the middle or come to him. Another political smoke screen, but one that is all to readily seen through.
Karen S, London, UK

The potential threat in Iran and North Korea will again bring about another whirlpool of conflict of interest as nations take sides again. This will set barriers against Bush's reconciliation goal. Bush's tour is basically two-prong; to heal fractured relationship with European friends while rebuilding alliance in reinforcing his conviction of preventing nuclear arms.
Mel, Klang, Malaysia

Bridge building requires a partnership of two equal parties. President Bush continues to use words carefully chosen by the administration to insinuate American authority over the rest of the world. Few will want to partner with an administration that believes "its my way or the highway"!
Greg, Volonne, France

Bush's efforts are too little too late. He totally ignored Europe when he needed to, now he goes to them because he needs them to save him in Iraq. His Iraqi experiment is a disaster and he now looks to Europe for a way out.
Sammy Onyegam, Dallas, Texas, USA

I think Europe should give Bush a chance and see what he is really up to. Whether we like it or not he is still the man in the White House. Europe just has to deal with him so has the rest of the world and hope that everything goes well.
Christmas, Bangkok

The rift will only grow larger as the EU strengthens and America remains tilted towards neo-con-fusion-ism. The old days are gone. Europe no longer needs America's defence against the big bad Soviet Union.
Peter, Vermont, USA

Nobody can say no to the most influential country in the whole wide world
Naomi Abellana, Mindanao, Philippines
Bush CAN rebuild bridges in Europe. Nobody can say no to the most influential country in the whole wide world. The US of A is definitely not the richest country but nobody can question its influence.
Naomi Abellana, Mindanao, Philippines

Bush is a man of action, but unfortunately he does not think about the consequences that follow. Liberty and freedom are great, but forcing nations to accept democracy seems more tyrannical.
Kenneth, USA

He came, he felt the pulse of Europe and both sides seemed superficially satisfied with the outcome of the visit, especially on Iran despite the caveat "all options are on the table", the firm statement on Israel to "freeze settlements" for the very first time from an American President and even on Kyoto. If words can be translated into actions, this feeler visit would have proved very useful indeed.
Saravan, UK

Who cares? Europe is still trying to repair the damages it created throughout the entire world from their years of colonialism. The US should not worry about getting on France or Germany's good side when the entire continent of Africa is in crisis due to European colonialism.
Troy Aikman, Dallas, TX, USA

Money talks louder than principle - unfortunately
Ana, Hartlepool, UK

He made his bed - let him lie in it. Unfortunately there's money to be made in Iraq - that's why Euro politicians will build bridges. Money talks louder than principle - unfortunately.
Ana, Hartlepool, UK

If the general tone of the comments from each side of the Atlantic in this debate is anything to go by, we can forget any bridges for the time being! It takes two to tango and sadly at the moment nobody wants to dance!
Penelope, Narbonne, France

Bush is a man of his word, if he says something he means it. While the European Union sits idly by, Bush takes action. With-in his first term of office he has liberated Afghanistan and Iraq from their tyrannical governments. How many countries has the European Union brought democracy to?
Frederick J Bainhauer III, Pennsylvania, USA

It will be a long, tough road for Mr Bush. In the televised clips of Mr. Bush meeting with European leadership, he looks tense and uncomfortable. What Mr. Bush has failed to realise is that US interests are not necessarily the interests of other nations. Right or wrong, other nations are not obligated to follow suit with his decisions regarding foreign policy, planning and strategy. Globally, we all have a vested interest in maintaining the peace, however we may bitterly disagree on the means used to achieve and sustain that peace. There have been serious questions raised about the motivations and justification for the Iraq invasion and we are left to wonder if the invasion has compromised the hope of a sustainable peace in the region and the world.
Dan, Houston, USA

If Europeans are willing, bridges can be rebuilt. Remember, it is they who for the most part, oppose Bush, not the other way around. Bush did what he felt was necessary for the security of the US and the future stability of the Middle East. However, it will be a difficult task for Bush because he and most Americans are politically right of centre, whereas most Europeans are left of centre. In fact, it is that, in addition to the differences in information received through the news media in our respective countries that truly explains the rift. If only Europeans could see and hear what most Americans have seen and heard the rift may not have been so great.
Wm. Hill, Austin, USA

Bush's priority is of course, power, alliances, and businesses
Ana Elisa DeOliveira, Rio, Brazil
Of course, he can rebuild bridges in Europe. Bush and the US can do anything, can't they? Bush's priority is of course, power, alliances, and businesses, making sure world power is concentrated in the US and Europe, not shifted anywhere else. I am sure Schroeder wants to be with the "strong boys" too. The old men's club are anxious to get back in business! The long term consequences of their actions, however, remains to be seen.
Ana Elisa DeOliveira, Rio, Brazil

I simply think that this is history repeating itself. Europeans hated and feared and loathed other American presidents who, over time, have become truly respected by most. Reagan was not liked at all in Europe during his 8 years. It does seem, however, that Europe has a somewhat better view of his policies now. Perhaps this "educated, informed" European population (as described by other posters on this board) simply cannot see the big picture.
LE Rayth, Pennsylvania, USA

From a US political view I do not think Pres. Bush needs to "build bridges". What he needs to do is explain his case in a referential manner and challenge the European governments to get on board to solve these problems. I am not sure Europe is up to it.
Chris Cotter, New York, NY

The whole of Frankfurt and Mainz autobahns and railways are gridlocked, normal Germans are staying at home, schools are closed - all so Bush can have a clear road, even the people's mailboxes (letter and the tube for newspapers) have been removed to prevent bombs. The normal German people have now lost a business day in an economy that is already depressed.
Keith Collyer, Darmstadt, Germany

In the past Europe and the USA have been allies in setting world policy. Any weakness between the two will shift world power away from both. Both Europe and USA will be stronger if Bush's trip is viewed as successful.
J Robert Moody, Ohio, USA

The whole neighbourhood is under the control of 600 rooftop sharp-shooters
Georgina, Frankfurt, Germany
Some charm offensive! For most Germans, the visit implies huge inconvenience and a massive bill to the tax-payer. Frankfurt Airport was closed for two hours - all arrivals/departures cancelled at the last minute. Three major motorways have been closed for hours. In Mainz businesses/shops have been forced to close and residents are under house arrest - no-one is allowed to leave their buildings, open windows or even stand at the window.

The whole neighbourhood is under the control of 600 rooftop sharp-shooters. Clearly Mr Bush fears for his life - such is the level of feeling against him. This kind of imposition does nothing to improve that feeling!
Georgina, Frankfurt, Germany

There seems to be a lot of experts saying Bush is not to be believed. The same people who said there could never be an election in Iraq. The one not to be believed are the ones that are not willing to face the facts. Europe stood by while Saddam murders hundreds of thousands, claiming to be more civil than the US.

Truth be told they are more concerned with being right about their self righteous believes than they are about the realities of the state of the world. The facts is that as a result of the action in Iraq there is a prevailing feeling of change in the Middle East, despite all the dire predictions of the so-called enlightened Europeans.
James, Charlotte, NC, USA

As long as there is the American undiplomatic unilateral way of doing politics there will be no closing of the gap nor rebuilding bridges.
Peter Staelens, Brugge, Belgium

Bush's trip is all window dressing: all form and no substance
Philip, Maidenhead, UK
Bush's trip is all window dressing: all form and no substance. There is a chasm between DC and Brussels on many fundamental issues: the Iraq war, Iranian nukes, the Kyoto Protocol, Nato's changing role, the US budget and trade deficits and the consequential impact on dollar and Euro exchange rates and trade competitiveness, the arbitrary detention of persons under the Patriot Act including European nationals - need I go on.

Somehow, I don't see these tempests resolved over the contents of a few teapots guzzled in Europe. This is a superficial attempt at reconciliation, before the actual divorce. Suddenly the Atlantic has taken on galactic proportions - and I have little confidence that the bureaucrats in Brussels and the gunslingers in DC can bridge this time and space continuum!
Philip, Maidenhead, UK

In terms of importance to the global economy I believe the USA has now passed its zenith. I don't think any amount of military might can prevent its slow decline from hereon in. The sooner the neo-conservatives and the American people realise this and find a way to peacefully reconcile themselves with their place in the new world order the better for all of us.
Steve Kando, Australia

All of the world's problems are not President Bush's fault
Terry Fujitani, Bay Area, USA

President Bush can only rebuild bridges in Europe if European leaders are willing to work with him. All of the world's problems are not President Bush's fault. Every other country in the world has had an equal hand in the world we live in today. To blame Bush and the US is ridiculous. At least President Bush is willing to make a stand for what he and a lot of folks in the US, believe in.

People around the world are just going to have to accept the fact that Bush is a man of action, he will not stand around and have meetings and pass useless resolutions while millions are being killed. We, the world, have stood on the sidelines long enough, watching brutal dictators kill their own people.
Terry Fujitani, Bay Area, USA

The real question is: are the US and the EU natural allies? Both having societies based on common values and political systems would seem to say that they are. These are petty rivalry issues - Europe finally felt strong enough to challenge its big brother over Iraq policy - but at the end of the day they are still brothers united by a history and values bigger than petty rivalry.
Adam, NY,NY

Bush wasn't concerned with multilateral efforts in 2002 when he mistakenly felt that the US was capable of anything and everything they wanted. He has now learned that wars cost money, and that's all he really wants from his allies. The US neither needs nor wants a few thousand soldiers here or there. They want and need money. That is what this "healing" trip is all about. The last thing Bush wants is joint command between himself and others. He's the boss, and America's friends should help to finance his decisions.
Doug, Vancouver, Canada

the rifts can be healed if both parties, the US and Europe, are willing to admit that both are to blame to some degree.
David, Colorado USA
I believe that the rifts can be healed if both parties, the US and Europe, are willing to admit that both are to blame to some degree. In the complex global community we are becoming, this is going to be commonplace occurrence.

Nations need to do what they feel is in their own best interest, and at times that will put them at odds with the international community. So be it. There are leaders like Chirac in France that will act on their own as fast as any other leader in the world, so he should not be so fast to judge Bush on this issue.
David, Colorado USA

Cultural bridges are not built from abject obedience. America's superior power does not make its policy judgment superior. The invasion of Iraq has exacerbated the problem of Islamic terrorism. The US ignores global warming. Its economic policies are stifling the global economy. Europeans are not obliged to indulge policies that are simply wrong.
Melissa, London, UK

It's not Bush's responsibility to mend the fences, it's Europe's. As long as western Europeans remain obsessed with American's enormous global influence on political, economic and cultural concerns, that is how long this bridge will appear to be uncrossable. Europe needs to move forward and recognize that America's influence isn't always a bad thing. It's time for Europe to move forward.
R. Wright, Basel, Switzerland

No, George W. Bush cannot repair the damage he has done to our relations with Europe. It will take someone else, the next president, to do that. How can he repair what he has done when he continues to believe he is always right? You can't mend fences by saying, "Sorry about that, but I'm still right."
Jeff, USA

Bush would be able to mend bridges if the French weren't so arrogant. I think that the French should remind themselves that the problems between them and the US are based upon jealousy and envy! I am no pro-American, but I think the fact that France would support the lift on the weapons ban to China, means that France is willing to provide a Communist state with weapons that might be used against the European people.
Riccio D'A., Remaufens, Switzerland

No, Bush cannot win the hearts and minds of Europeans. Nor will any American president be able to do that. Europe is in a nationalistic mood and will continue to regard this country as its adversary -- as a means to rally Europeans around the EU. Anti-Americanism will continue for many years to be a force in Europe.
Gill Doyle, Cupertino, California

Friends sometimes argue, but they are still friends afterwards.
Dan, Boston, USA
People seem to have completely forgotten the tension between the US and Europe has been much worse in the past, especially during the Vietnam War. These tensions did not destroy the bridges between the US and Europe and neither will this recent disagreement. Friends sometimes argue, but they are still friends afterwards.
Dan, Boston, USA

It is truly great that the United States and Europe are now prepared to bury the hatchet and move forward in rescuing Iraq by providing adequate security. Of course this would mean very much more than papering the cracks but resolute determination to work in tandem in every conceivable way as equal partners in a very complex situation.

France's willingness to come aboard in spite of earlier reservations of the US-led invasion shows real statesmanship on the part of Jacques Chirac. Let us hope George Bush will take a more multi-lateral approach. This will be a real step in the right direction. If America shows genuine desire to cooperate and not hector Europe, strong bridges can really be built.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

For all the complaining Europe has done over the past three years, it's about time bad feelings be put to rest so that real work and reform can continue. However, in my opinion, it should be European leaders coming to Bush to mend fences. With the recent successes regarding the Iraqi elections and a peace accord in the Middle East developing, European leaders should be wondering to themselves "what if we had helped rather than hindered the process", the way some European countries (aka Britain, Italy, Poland and Spain) have been involved from the onset of these issues. It's sad to say but a majority of European countries have looked very weak appearing more like spoiled children rather than legitimate world powers.
M Canada, Coronado, CA USA

If Bush was serious about rebuilding bridges he would engage with Europe on climate change
Nick Davies, Newquay, UK

Not a chance. Bush burned the bridges by pulling out of Kyoto, undermining the UN and invading Iraq without international backing. If Bush was serious about rebuilding bridges he would engage with Europe on climate change. The world needs America to take a responsible lead on this. Instead, Bush continues to ignore the rest of the world.
Nick Davies, Newquay, UK

Why should Bush try to heal any rifts. Keep in mind to heal a "rift" two or more parties must be willing to try to bridge gaps. I am very sceptical that leaders like Chirac are interested in mending fences, as much as they are setting themselves apart as the "great counter-balance to the USA". Personally, I think too much emphasis is placed on what Bush needs to do, and not enough on attention is placed on the things European leaders need to do to build better relations. It is a two way street is it not?
Michael , Ottawa, Canada

Let's get this straight, Bush is an oil man. He is interested in oil and Western economic imperialism. I don't care how many times he can fit 'freedom' and 'liberty' into a sentence the world is foolish to listen to him and believe he has the best interests of the Middle East at heart. Shame on Europeans for allowing this to continue. We have learned nothing from our bloody history of imperialism and war. Those who forget their history are destined to repeat it.
Dean, Birmingham, UK

I will say old wounds can be healed. But having said that until Bush adopts a more let's work together attitude toward the rest of the world, I think nobody will take what he says in Europe on this trip very seriously. As far as I am concerned he will do what he wants and then asks for others' opinion once decision have been made.
Daniel, Virginia beach VA, USA

George Bush's priorities should be to stop acting as the world's champion of a group of US based trans-nationals. Instead of giving them tax breaks he should invest more in the well being of his own people, the US healthcare system and better public education. Instead of making war in countries such as Iraq, he should actively support the UN-efforts to come to a more balanced world, with less poverty and hunger.
Garsett Larosse, Malle, Belgium

How naive can we be? State visits neither create nor repair alliances, it is trade which keeps them going. It was trade which made the UK choose the Common Market over the Commonwealth, and it is trade with each other and with China which will make the US and the European nations finally agree or disagree. Presidents come and go, but as the Americans are correctly wont to say, it is the 'bottom dollar' that counts.
Michael Lakey, Newcastle

Isn't it strange how Mr Bush should arrive just before an election? Do I recall Mr Blair going to the US at a similar time?
Gary Dundas, Draycott, Derby

His move is a demonstration of statesmanship
Babalola Faseru, Kuopio, Finland
President Bush's initiative to mend fences with Europe is highly commendable and his move is a demonstration of statesmanship. For whatever reasons and motives, I hope this will give room for continuous dialogue for a joint action towards the actualisation of freedom and peace in the wild world.
Babalola Faseru, Kuopio, Finland

It will be a lot harder to win the hearts of the European public than it will be European politicians! The anti-American feeling amongst the overwhelming majority of the European public (including that of the UK) is incredibly deep and few people are prepared to give the Americans a chance just yet, many feel that it is far too little, too late. He is going to have to work quite hard for a fairly long period of time to win them back over. Good luck Mr Bush, you are going to need as much of it as you can get.
Tim Hunt, Plymouth, UK

I wonder whether Mr Bush holding his hand out to Europe has more to do with finance than anything else? The Iraq invasion and occupation has and is costing billions of dollars and without this being a Nato backed war the bulk of the cost is to the USA. Now by encouraging Nato to be involved will this will help reduce the massive amounts he needs to ask Congress to approve to continue? I only hope that the majority of Europe who were against the invasion stick to their guns.
Paul Andrews, London, UK

Naturally Bush will be able to mend the problems between Europe and the USA. However, that will mean doing more than making pretty speeches and blessing us with his presence. Firstly he will have to start accepting the UN and its charter and stop going off on questionable pre-emptive strikes...
Pċl Adamson, Luleċ, Sweden

What is the point of President Bush even considering building bridges when he is determined to break these bridges again by attacking every country that does not agree with the US way of life such as Iran and North Korea?
Stephen, Leeds, UK

Bridges can be built when both shores want to meet in between
Ian, Austin, Texas, USA
President Bush's hand to Europe is not about American politics. It is not for American consumption. In America, he cannot be re-elected. He is the only honest man (though some may say misguided) who truly wants freedom and rule of law to spread into the darkest realms of this world. Bridges can be built when both shores want to meet in between.
Ian, Austin, Texas, USA

Bush is only trying to heal rifts because he realises he needs the support of the international community for his next offensive either against Syria or Iran. He also realises that America cannot become any more isolated and that his troops are already stretched throughout the world.
Owen, Belfast

The true test for fence mending will come in the UN before the Security Council, where France and Germany will need to either enforce resolutions and sanctions toward Syria (and soon Iran) or face the humiliation of having Bush and Blair do it for them again.
Will Burns, Boise, ID, USA

Rebuilding bridges requires multilateral concessions
Erik Kugler, Alicante, Spain

The question no one is asking is "What is Mr Bush offering to Europe in order that the follow his line?" Rebuilding bridges requires multilateral concessions. Hopefully a deal will pan out where Mr Bush promises to support his currency in exchange for Europe supporting something other than thug-like foreign policy actions.
Erik Kugler, Alicante, Spain

Although, I am very doubtful that Mr Bush will achieve much success with foreign policy in general, I hope that he does mend those bridges, because with Europe on our side much could be done.
Wendy, Washington, DC, USA

President Bush shouldn't be under any obligation to 'rebuild bridges'. It is the arrogance of certain European countries that has caused the rifts in the first place. Those countries need to start putting others before their own self interest.
Alistair Gunthorpe, Southsea, Hants

I think rebuilding bridges with Europe is a tall order for a man who can't even repair the divisions within his own country. He has done nothing to reach out to the 48% who didn't vote for him, and has in fact, only alienated us further since winning the election. I sincerely hope that he does better in repairing our EU relationships.
Katherine Johns, West Hartford, CT

Maybe he should shift his priorities to actually having a conversation and stop dictating terms, using the royal "we" and treating Europe and the world as if they were his wayward subjects.
Angela, USA

We have common goals with the US
Jim Kirk, Basildon, UK
Mr Bush will have to work hard to patch up the problems. We have common goals with the US without doubt but for us to work together it must be by consensus, not the "do it our way" that Mr Bush has employed in recent years. Work with Europe, don't tell it what to do and watch things get done.
Jim Kirk, Basildon, UK

How about President Bush has a think about the Kyoto Protocol as a way of 'transatlantic unity'?
Kevin Dunn, Cheltenham

To the extent the United States and Europe share common interests in free trade, international law enforcement and global stability, I believe President Bush can make the case that there is more that unites us than divides us. My real hope is that just as we in the US accept that Europe has a unique point of view, so too, Europe should accept that the US has a unique and equally valid point of view.
Russell K. Jackson, Palmyra, Virginia, USA

This isn't just about Bush acting contrite or saying sorry. Europe has a huge amount to answer for. Like the US, we have supported dictators, autocrats and theocrats for decades - in the name of stability or national interest, or to advance our economies. The US has finally realised that none of this actually made us safe and that the only way to ensure real stability is to support people's aspirations for democracy and good government. Isn't it time that we realised that we were wrong too - and that, like the US, our agenda should focus more on freedom and less on "stability"?
David Ward, London, UK

To David Ward in London, "support people's aspirations for democracy"? Don't make me laugh. The war had nothing to do with democracy. The exiled Iraqi middle class that was established as an interim government just wanted power for themselves. It suited Bush and Blair to grant them this. And what sort of government did the Iraqi people elect - a Shia government that will divide the country. Let's not pretend Bush was being benevolent, as long as he continues with these neo-imperialist policies we shouldn't help him re-build any bridges.
Philip, London, UK

In the end the same differences will remain
Jason Robinson, Dublin, Ireland
President Bush can put a nicer face on the same policies, but in the end the same differences will remain. The war on Iraq isn't the only thing that divides Europe and the US and nothing other than a lighter tone suggests that America has changed any of its foreign policies.
Jason Robinson, Dublin, Ireland

'You're either with us or against us'. How does that sit with this current charm offensive? Forgive my cynicism but I don't buy it. Mr Bush simply doesn't respect views which differ from his own.
KJ, London

It will be hard for Bush to mend relations with European countries. He pushed the entire world aside when he invaded Iraq. There exists no reason to conclude that Bush will not do the same thing again. The US has become the lone ranger in its foreign policy. The US is powerful enough to be the lone ranger, although it is probably not wise. Bush needs to admit to Europe that he needs their help. He needs to admit that to choose to go to war alone was a harmful decision. That he alienated the rest of the world when he should have used the opportunity to unify it. Bush is not behaving as the President of the last remaining superpower should. He can do almost anything but in reality he should be restrained.
David Weiss, Tucson USA

It is a trip designed primarily for American domestic consumption
Michael Krug, Denmark
Having "burned his bridges" in relation to European public opinion with the unnecessary and unwarranted invasion of Iraq; President Bush will never be able to re-establish them - it's too late for that. Rather his trip to Europe should be seen in another context. It is a trip designed primarily for American domestic consumption, to give the impression he is a "peacemaker" before he widens the "war on terror" by attacking Iran - probably before the end of 2005.
Michael Krug, Hundested, Denmark

I think that the one person can rebuild bridges in Europe is Mr Bush. The aspirations of Mr Bush can stress on Iran and cause Iran to stop development of nuclear weapons, oppression on innocent people and terrorism. Mr Bush with his colleagues can change the regime of Iran and by so doing the world can be at peace.
Aras, Sanandaj, Iran

With 48% of the US opposed to his leadership, and much higher percentages in much of Europe and elsewhere in the world, he will have a hard time. I think more and more people are continuing to realize the truth - that this man is one of peace's biggest enemies!
Norman, New York, NY, USA

I think the world should hope he can. We need to get away from a unilateral power base to one which is regionally diverse. Europe cannot afford to be in a position as it was in Eastern Europe in the mid to late 90's when it couldn't stop ethnic cleansing in its own backyard. Europe needs to become the power - militarily as well as diplomatically - that it is positioned to become. The US needs a strong Europe as an ally. The world needs a counter balance. Hopefully, China can join them and we can see a strong Arab League and an African Conference. Then we'll be able to see regional issues be dealt by their regional power, with respect to their laws and culture. Bush is doing the right thing.
Chris, London

There needs to be political dialogue of course. But Europeans should be ever vigilant. Bush has no exit strategy in Iraq because he has no intention of leaving the mid-east. On the contrary he plans to occupy/surround those parts of the Middle East (Iraq, Iran, S Arabia) where there is oil. His network of bases around the world sit astride the oil routes. He threatens Venezuela's democratically-elected president because of oil. In my view, Bush plans to control the world's oil supplies as production goes into decline. I believe our children will live in a very dangerous world.
David, Portland, Or, USA ex London UK

Bush doesn't need to mend ties with Europe. He is giving those countries that opposed the war on terror, or in Iraq, a chance to re-board the freedom train, or the human rights train. I see this as an act of a forgiving leader with the mindset of a free world able to negotiate together for a more free tomorrow. How many 9/11s would there have been had he not acted the way he did?
Mike Mac, NC, USA

In my opinion the Bush administration has lost a lot of respect by waging a war of choice based on false pretences. I'm afraid this bridge-building effort comes across as just as false as most of his previous shallow policies. Europeans are not against the US in their hearts but this Administration will not gain anybody's trust. The only suggestion for Bush is to start listening to old Europeans and be less arrogant. Relations will not get better until 2009!
Jan Westra, Athens, Greece

I hope that the EU is smart enough not to rebuild anything with Bush but rather pay closer attention to what he does and not what he says. Bush's priorities should be to the heal the rift with Europe by listening to what the world and (most)of the US are saying about saving the environment, stopping the war and putting the working class ahead of big business. If he is going to promote "freedom" he should understand the word the way the rest of us understand it, not his double speak where freedom means oppression of all but the most wealthy and powerful.
Yvonne, Ithaca USA

Surely President Bush's only interest in Europe is that he wishes to dissuade them from selling arms to China, and surely it will only last for as long as the EU continues its stance on this issue. Of course it is good that he is even attempting diplomacy, but one should not assume that this is anything more than the usual US view of foreign policy as a series of short-term, unrelated, hands of poker.
Ian Kemmish, Biggleswade, UK

As long as Europe tows the US line then there should be no problem!
Joe R, Chartres, France

No - his arrogance and unswerving dedication to unilateralism when it suits him makes such bonds impossible (or at least too fragile to count on). His priorities should be to take a vacation for the next four years (although then the real president, Dick Cheney, would be in charge - that's even more frightening).
Bruce, Adelaide, Australia

That depends. Is he going to admit that he made mistakes and that he shouldn't have accused independent European democracies of sponsoring terrorism? Or is he going to pretend that he did nothing wrong? He was the one who decided that America could go about things on their own so he should be the one to apologise for past mistakes.
Christine, UK

Bush should not need to rebuild trans-Atlantic ties. Every country is looking out for its own interest. Do Europeans not see that selling arms to China is a unilateral decision which has far more reaching consequences world wide than the Iraqi war did? Do the people of Taiwan have any say in this decision? The problem Europe has with the US is they fear a lack of control on US decisions globally. Europe is not the centre of world power that it once was.
Sean, Boston

I saw him giving an interview with a Belgian TV channel - something he didn't allow during the past four years. He is definitely changing, and that is at least hopeful.
Marc, Querétaro, Mexico

The only hope that Bush has in seeking assistance in Iraq from France and Germany is to share the various contracts with them. The US has been getting fleeced by its own companies.
Tony, USA

Bush cannot mend his relationship with Europe as a matter of fact or with any other countries, as there has been no change in his attitudes. Rice's smile cannot change anything. Only way to amend things is to change the US attitude and behaviour in world affairs. He has to change his administration, fire all the secretaries including Rice, Rumsfeld and Cheney.
Tateishi, Malaga, Spain

Europe has become irrelevant to the US policies and if it can't fall into line it should at least get out of the way
John, Ottawa, Canada

It's not a matter of Mr Bush mending fence with Europe. Few in the US really care about Europe or their views. It's really a matter of Europe falling into line with US policies. Europe has become irrelevant to the US policies and if it can't fall into line it should at least get out of the way.
John, Ottawa, Canada

He can try but he will eventually fail! The European public is much more educated and informed than the American public! So, I think Europe should take a stance and not shake to America's willpower.
Ziad Zaher, KSA

No, of course not. Everyone knows Bush is only making this gesture now because he needs European help. Superficially, there will be a lot of smiles and handshaking, but deep in their hearts the major European leaders have absolutely no respect left for Bush. And who can blame them! Bridges between Europe and America cannot truly be rebuilt until Bush is no longer president. Even Blair, his only faithful follower, has to lie low now because of the forthcoming UK elections.
Jeannette, UK

Before he can mend bridges, he really needs to repair the American viewpoint
Ian Broverman, Washington DC

Rhetoric from the Bush administration has convinced a percentage of Americans that Old Europe is antiquated and short-sighted. Before he can mend bridges, he really needs to repair the American viewpoint. Nothing he says in Europe will sound sincere while his supporters at home continue to boycott France and eat Freedom fries.
Ian Broverman, Washington DC, USA

Bush and Blair have been willing to take an unpopular stance to push back the barriers of oppression. There is no true stability when half the world is not free, whatever deals we may cut with those who rule it. When Europeans learn this and start to commit real resources to advancing liberty, then maybe the transatlantic rift will heal.
Chris, Basildon, UK

A president who does not have the full support of Americans can of course rebuild bridges with some politicians in Europe. The president cannot rebuild bridges with the majority of Europeans who believe the current US administration is not interested in peace in the world.
Mick, Leeds, UK

He was the one who decided that America could go about things on their own
Christine, UK
That depends. Is he going to admit that he made mistakes and that he shouldn't have accused independent European democracies of sponsoring terrorism? Or is he going to pretend that he did nothing wrong? He was the one who decided that America could go about things on their own so he should be the one to apologise for past mistakes.
Christine, UK

I think Europeans are a little more sophisticated to buy into Bush's simplistic views. Bush can only woo the Middle America , the large urban centres in this country New York, Los Angeles overwhelmingly reject his political views. I think they are akin to Europeans that are more informed and, in general, more intelligent than the average American. George Bush has no chance of convincing them and any politician in Europe that agrees with Bush is very unpopular.
Paul Sutton, Concord, CA, USA

The best Bush can hope for is a slight thawing in his relationship with Chirac
Patrick, Leicester, UK
The best Bush can hope for is a slight thawing in his relationship with Chirac. When even the UK appears to be diverging from US policy on Iran, there really is little hope for US-EU relations. 2008 can't come soon enough.
Patrick, Leicester, UK

Yes, Bush can rebuild bridges quite easily. It suffices to start using the term "human rights" every time he says "freedom" - and show he means it, of course. Or he could just do something about the weak dollar, that'd probably be enough already...
Koen van Hees, France

Bush does not need Europe. His priority is to ensure that never again is his country attacked by government-backed terrorists. Hence the overthrow of the evil regimes that once ruled Afghanistan and Iraq. (There's more to come). Europe should be thankful that he has decided make the trip!
Norman Day, UK

Bridges will not be rebuilt if he is going to continue to try dictate to Europe
Linda, Hull, UK
If Bush wants to rebuild with Europe he has to realise that not all European leaders are prepared to be his puppets and that other countries do have their own opinions on issues. Bridges will not be rebuilt if he is going to continue to try dictate to Europe.
Linda, Hull

No - his arrogance and unswerving dedication to unilateralism when it suits him makes such bonds impossible (or at least too fragile to count on).
Bruce, Adelaide, Australia

Bush and his administration have plainly showed that they will do whatever they want regardless of how Europeans (or Americans) feel about it. They will fear-monger in order to achieve their aims and now expect to be welcomed? I trust Bush and Rice about as far as I could throw a fully-laden oil tanker.
Dan, Hampton, UK

Let's face it; everything revolves around money in our sad, greedy world. Bush will build his bridges, whilst he continues to ruin America from the inside, and tramples on truth and freedom for others worldwide. I have no respect left for our governments here in Europe.
Jennifer Hynes, UK

The bridge is already there, it does not have to be rebuilt
Rajnish Singh, Sydney, Australia
The bridge is already there, it does not have to be rebuilt. There are some pillars in the bridge which are misaligned due to various reasons like justification of Iraq war, China arm ban lift etc. But there is always way to settle down the differences and one of the ways is dialogue. I am sure Mr Bush and the Europe will not miss this opportunity.
Rajnish Singh, Sydney, Australia





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