Klaus, Gross in Brussels as George Bush attempts to patch up ties with Europe

23-02-2005

The president of the United States, George Bush, is in Europe at the moment, on a visit that is being seen as a concerted effort to patch up US-European relations. On Tuesday he was in Brussels for a NATO meeting, which was also attended by the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, and the Czech prime minister, Stanislav Gross. I spoke to Radio Prague's Gerald Schubert, who is in Brussels, and began by asking him what Mr Klaus and Mr Gross had to say on the issue of US-European relations.

President Vaclav Klaus with the president of the United States George Bush, photo: CTKPresident Vaclav Klaus with the president of the United States George Bush, photo: CTK "I was at a press conference with Vaclav Klaus in the evening, and his opinion was that Bush wants the European project to succeed - that's what George W Bush said a few times. He also said that it is in his interest that Europe is a strong partner, even if there were - and in some fields maybe still are - problems, or even conflicts.

"And the European side expressed quite similar points of view. Vaclav Klaus identified with a statement by the German chancellor, Gerhard Schoder, who said something like a strong Europe is not an opponent but a better partner for the USA."

I understand that Mr Klaus held short talks with both George W Bush and [US Secretary of State] Condoleeza Rice - do you know what they spoke about?

"I guess it was some kind of political small talk - Klaus said that they even asked what's new in the Czech Republic, which was maybe some reference to the political crisis in Prague.

Vaclav Klaus and Stanislav Gross, photo: CTKVaclav Klaus and Stanislav Gross, photo: CTK "But the most interesting point, I guess, was the question of whether Vaclav Klaus got an invitation to the White House or not. At the press conference they asked him whether he got it, and he said maybe some journalists were a little too interested in the question of when he would be going to Washington. But he said yes, they talked about it and he got this invitation, but we don't know how concrete it really is, because he didn't fix a certain date."

Of course that has been a point of discussion since Mr Klaus was elected - when would he be invited to the United States. But was it a surprise that both Vaclav Klaus and Stanislav Gross were in Brussels? I understood beforehand that only Mr Klaus was going.

"Exactly. We were all a little bit puzzled here about this point; it was kind of a riddle until the last moment - who is actually going to Brussels, and who will take part in which summit. Because there two summits, the NATO summit and a summit of heads of state and government of the European Union. So for most of the people here it was a surprise as well. I'm talking about journalists of course - I don't know how much other politicians were involved in, or knew something about the decision."

23-02-2005