Bush outlines vision for larger EU
WARSAW, Poland -- President Bush has crossed the former iron curtain, arriving in Poland where he is discussing his vision of Europe's future.
"I strongly believe in NATO expansion, and I believe that the EU should expand, as well," Bush said after meeting EU leaders in Sweden.
Leaving behind the thinly veiled acrimony of an EU summit in Sweden, the U.S. leader kicked off a visit to the former Warsaw pact nation full of hopes for a new "alliance of peace" between recent adversaries.
Though not a member of the European Union, Poland will be the backdrop as Bush discusses his vision of Europe's future -- a "larger vision," as Bush described it to reporters on Thursday.
"I strongly believe in NATO expansion, and I believe that the EU should expand, as well," Bush said after meeting EU leaders in Gothenburg, Sweden.
"I believe a Europe, whole and free, is going to be a Europe that trades actively with the United States and the rest of the world."
Bush's Poland visit is his fourth stop on a maiden tour of five European nations that will culminate on Saturday when the U.S. president meets with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Slovenia.
Bush said Saturday's meeting, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss defense and security issues, would also be an opportunity to discuss an enlarged Europe.
"Russia ought not to fear a Europe -- Russia ought to welcome an expanded Europe on her border," Bush said.
After Air Force One touched down in Warsaw, Bush inspected an honour guard of Polish soldiers and greeted a dozen Polish graduates of U.S. military academies.
From there, he headed to the Presdiential Palace, a 17th century Baroque edifice where his father attended a state dinner in the waning days of the Cold War.
The U.S. president was scheduled to meet on Friday with the country's ex-Communist president, Aleksander Kwasnieski, and, separately, with Prime Minister Jerzy Karol Buzek.
Later in the day he was planning to lay wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visit the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial, the former site of the squalid, disease-ridden warrens in which 450,000 Jews were forced by the Nazis to live during World War II. Few survived the ordeal.
Bush's only public address of the trip will come later on Friday, at Warsaw University Library. The address has been billed by the White House as a major European policy speech.
Bush said he intends to use the speech to urge Europe to welcome Russia and Ukraine, and encourage Russia "to make the right choices when it comes to the institutions necessary to be able to become a partner with Europe and the United States."
President Bush will push western Europe to embrace ex-Soviet states with military and trade ties while in Poland.
"I believe that we have an opportunity to form an alliance of peace, that Europe ought to include nations beyond the current scope of the EU and NATO," he told reporters during an EU-U.S. summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Thursday.
"And I believe that the EU ought to expand as well."
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