Wednesday

11th Dec 2019

Expectations low ahead of EU-US summit

  • The two sides continue to differ strongly on the issue of climate change (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU and the US are to meet on Tuesday (10 June) to freshen up transatlantic relations, with issues such as Iran, climate change, the current food price crisis and US visa policy on the table.

But expectations about what the bilateral summit can bring are low as US President George W. Bush's term in office winds down.

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According to Antonio Missiroli from the Brussels-based European Policy Centre, the summit is unlikely to produce great headlines. "We have the president who is a lame-duck...and EU leaders entirely focused on his two possible successors," he said.

Americans will elect a new resident of the White House in November, deciding between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barak Obama.

In addition, this year's meeting does not deal with any issue that is ripe for a breakthrough announcement, Mr Missiroli said. He also pointed to the politically sensitivity surrounding the Doha development round of world trade talks.

According to the analyst, this is the only domain with a slight window of opportunity for progress, as Mr Bush's mandate granted by the US Congress expires in July. "But nobody wants to publicly talk about it because of the Irish referendum," he added, referring to Ireland's important vote on the Lisbon Treaty on Thursday.

The Doha development round - which began in 2001 with the aim of cutting farm subsidies and tariffs and boosting free trade - has featured highly in the pre-referendum debate in Ireland.

Climate change and visa divisions

Where the two continents strongly disagree is the fight against global warming as Washington refuses to commit to ambitious green goals unless emerging economies such as China and India are on board as well.

"President Bush has said that he will undertake for the United States internationally binding emissions commitments, so long as all major economies, developed and major developing economies, are willing to do the same," national security advisor to president Bush, Stephen Hadley, said ahead of the EU-US summit.

Slovene foreign minister Dmitrij Rupel, speaking on behalf of his country's EU presidency, put it bluntly last week by saying: "on climate change, the positions are split".

Besides climate change, the EU is set to flag up the issue of visas - with several eastern European countries keen to be a part of the US visa waiver systems - as well as seek clarification over proposed US travel restrictions, including an electronic system of travel authorisation designed to electronically collect data on all European travellers.

"I would remind the US of their stated commitment to tackle the issues of visas," EU commissioner Gunter Verheugen said last week.

The US is also set to discuss the tensions in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia and Russia's involvement. "We expect the leaders will join in urging Russia to reverse its provocative actions in the separatist regions and to respect Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Mr Hadley said.

He also flagged up the topic of Iran's nuclear programme, saying the summit should deal with "how best to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons via diplomatic efforts, both multilaterally and unilaterally, but also through imposing greater sanctions under the UN Security Council."

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