THE last US president to visit Austria was Jimmy Carter who came to Vienna back in 1979 to negotiate a nuclear arms deal with the Soviets. This week the city welcomed George W Bush for an EU-US summit - though "welcome" is hardly the word that would be used by the 6,000 demonstrators on the city's streets.
A formal declaration promised to co-operate in dealings with energy suppliers, such as Russia. It announced joint teams to find and seize counterfeit goods. And it called for a joint panel on climate change and clean energy - an issue over which the two sides have barely been on speaking terms.
Public opinion not impressed
Even they wouldn't deny the importance of the relationship between the EU and the US. Together they account for almost 40 per cent of world trade, and last year Europe exported goods to America which earned it 250bn euros. As many as 14m jobs are dependent on transatlantic investment. And every day 1.7bn euros of trade in goods and services takes place between Europe and the world's only superpower.
There was a common line on tackling threats posed by North Korea and a nuclear-armed Iran. At a press conference in the ornate Hofburg Palace, President Bush was backed by the EU when he warned the North Koreans not to test long-range missiles.
nfortunately European public opinion remains unconvinced by these displays of unity. One opinion poll shows that most European see the US is a bigger threat to global peace than Iran. That idea was described as "absurd" by the President when he was challenged at a press conference.
Little wonder, then, that by the time President George W Bush descended the steps of Air Force I for his first ever visit to Austria, diplomats had produced a raft of pre-packaged agreements to demonstrate the strength of the relationship. Well, EU-US summits have never been renowned for their spontaneity.
They agreed too that Iran should not delay its response to an offer from the west over its nuclear programme.
Nevertheless public opinion made it impossible to ignore the legacy of the Iraq war and the issues that strain the transatlantic link.
r Bush pre-empted the Europeans by raising - himself - the issue of Guantanamo Bay, the US detention camp on the island of Cuba. He said that he, too, wants to close it and gave more detail on how it might be emptied.
Wolfgang Schussel, the Austrian Chancellor who chaired the meeting, also called on the Americans to relax their visa regime for Europeans. At present travellers from 10 EU countries cannot take part in America's visa waiver scheme. If that anomaly is not changed, EU countries could impose visas on US diplomats and military personnel.
Nevertheless European diplomats were pleased by President Bush's tone and the event passed off as well as could be expected.
The pre-negotiated declaration issued, Air Force One was airborne and heading for Hungary. The truth is that most of Europe will never learn to love President Bush. The EU's leaders know they have to learn to live with him.
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