GOTEBORG, Sweden — President Bush sparred Thursday with European leaders over climate change, unwavering in his opposition to a global warming treaty. Sweden’s prime minister accused Bush of pursuing “wrong policies” that endanger the environment.
Emotions ran high in this quaint seacoast city as demonstrators hurled bottles and cobblestones to protest globalization, the European Union and Bush policies. Police arrested more than 200 as the president met with EU leaders at the midpoint of his first overseas trip.
At the meeting behind metal barricades, Bush sought to minimize differences with EU Commission President Romano Prodi and Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson, whose nation holds the organization’s rotating presidency.
“We don’t agree on the Kyoto Treaty, but we do agree that climate change is a serious issue and we must work together,” Bush said at a news conference with Prodi and Persson.
It was the second day of U.S.-European discord after a breach among NATO allies Wednesday over Bush’s plans for a missile defense system.
Bush put Prodi on the spot – encouraging a question about the failure of EU countries to ratify the same global warming treaty that Bush is criticized for rejecting. The president also attended a working dinner with the presidents and prime ministers of 15 EU nations.
The Europeans said they would press to ratify the 1997 pact – known as the Kyoto accord for the Japanese city where it was signed – while Bush pursued a more modest initiative to boost research and technology that could reduce global warming.
The United States and EU also:
• Agreed to move toward a new round of global trade talks when the World Trade Organization meets in November. The two sides have a series of disputes pending, notably over EU fears that Washington is moving to block steel imports and over European restrictions on genetically modified food imports.
•Urged Israel and the Palestinians to keep their cease-fire.
•Renewed their commitment to peacekeeping missions in the Balkans.
After a stop Friday in Poland, Bush will conclude his five-nation trip Saturday in Slovenia, where he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. The contentious subject of missile defenses will be at the top of the agenda there.
“Russia is not the enemy of the United States,” Bush said Thursday.
He added, “Russia ought not to fear a Europe – Russia ought to welcome an expanded Europe on her border.”
On global warming, Bush dismayed governments and environmentalists worldwide when he announced in March that he was abandoning the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty marked the first time that the world’s industrialized nations had committed to binding limits on the heat-trapping gases that many scientists say threaten catastrophic changes in the planet’s climate.
Persson withheld criticism of Bush during the news conference, but said afterward that his position is a heavy blow to the international effort against global warming.
“It will have a tremendous impact, sorry to say, because it would have sent an extremely strong signal if the U.S. had stuck with the Kyoto protocol,” Persson said.
The United States is the world’s largest producer of heat-trapping gases and Persson said its leadership would have prodded developing countries to join the cause.
“I think he has the same strong commitment to going ahead with the climate change” fight, the prime minister said of Bush. “The problem is we think that he chose the wrong policies and I have the impression that he thinks the same way about Europe.”
Indeed, the president jumped at the chance to highlight the fact that Europe has not rushed to ratify the four-year-old treaty. It came when he was asked why the action of European leaders has not been as forceful as their rhetoric.
“I think that’s a good question for President Prodi,” Bush replied with a smile. Turning to Prodi, he mischievously added, “I would be interested in your answer.”
Prodi’s reply was terse: “There is not one single country who has declared not to ratify it.”
White House advisers privately said the exchange underscored what they consider to be an element of hypocrisy in the EU’s criticism of Bush. For his part, the president said, “I don’t believe there’s any politics, necessarily.”
Even before Bush turned his back, the treaty had a rough history in the United States.
President Clinton had said he supported the pact but never sent it to the Senate. On its own, the Senate unanimously rejected the accord in a symbolic vote.
Bush disavowed the pact in March, saying it largely exempts developing nations and would harm the U.S. economy. Advisers now concede they did not adequately brace the public or U.S. allies for the action.
“We welcome the fact that President Bush and the U.S. administration have now recognized the scientific basis of climate change and have agreed to a research program to look at the issue,” said a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Persson said Bush and the EU would establish “some type of procedure” that will help the allies cooperate on the issue. Bush promised “new channels of cooperation.”