Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bush's Last European Junket Greeted With Disinterest, Disgust By Locals

Why no massive anti-Bush protests in Europe as he stages his farewell presidential tour? Well, why bother? :
U.S. President George W. Bush is making his last major visit to a continent where many dismiss him as yesterday's man.

As his presidency winds down, Bush — reviled by many Europeans and simply ignored by others — can do little this week but smooth the way for his successor.

His tour kicks off Tuesday with a one-day summit of U.S. and European leaders in Slovenia, where officials have alluded to long-standing misgivings in Europe over Bush's foreign policy in Iraq and its approach to climate change and other issues.

"As in all relationships, the EU and U.S. sometimes have different views," Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel told reporters before Bush's scheduled arrival Monday evening.

Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned to meet with Slovenian President Danilo Turk and Prime Minister Janez Jansa, and later with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana at a castle that the late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito once used as a retreat.

Later Tuesday, Bush was to head to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He also planned stops in Italy, the Vatican, France, England and Northern Ireland.

Like many Americans, Europeans have Bush fatigue. His decision to invade Iraq stirred anti-American sentiment in many countries, although that has receded as Europeans watch the U.S. presidential campaign and weigh prospects for change under a new president.

"A lot of people like America. They may not sometimes necessarily like the president but they like America," Bush said in an interview with POP TV of Slovenia. "They like what America stands for."

Although Bush will meet with key European leaders again at next month's summit in Japan of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations, this week's trip was likely to be his last major tour across the continent before the U.S. presidential elections in November.

When Bush first visited this ex-Yugoslav republic in 2001 for a summit with then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, he was met with large and boisterous demonstrations.

This time, reflecting deep-seated apathy for a president increasingly viewed as yesterday's man, only a few small, loosely organized protests were planned. And though security was tight, unlike his 2001 stop, there were no American flags to welcome Bush.