U.S.-Europe summit draws protests

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Developing a common stance on dealing with Iran, North Korea and Cuba topped the foreign policy agenda at the annual U.S.-European Union summit June 21 in Vienna, Austria, where President George Bush met with Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, and other European leaders.

Thousands of demonstrators were on hand to greet the U.S. president. “Bush – Number one terrorist,” “Viva international solidarity” and “Hands off Iran” were a few of the slogans shouted out by the more than 15,000 protesters lining the streets of Vienna. The crowd expressed its outrage at the continuing U.S. war in Iraq and demanded the immediate closing of the U.S. prison complex at Guantanamo Bay.

The formal goals of the U.S.-EU summit were “the promotion of peace, human rights and worldwide democracy.” The real agenda, however, centered on developing a joint strategic energy policy and tactics to counter working-class challenges to capitalist globalization.

What ensued was a stream of reactionary statements from summit leaders targeting the more “problematic” countries of the world, with Iran heading the list, and vague pledges about combating world terrorism.

European and U.S. leaders issued another sharp warning to Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program, which Iran insists is strictly intended for peaceful energy development. After the summit, Bush used even more threatening language against Tehran.

The summit also called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon its long-range missile testing program. North Korea, which says it has a sovereign right to such testing, also wants direct talks with the U.S.

While prior to the summit European leaders had called on the U.S. to close its infamous Guantanamo detention facility, they muted such demands and instead adopted a statement expressing “deep concern for the human rights situation in Cuba,” echoing Washington’s anti-Cuba agenda.

Similarly, while observers had predicted a climate of contention around trade issues, secret CIA detention facilities in European countries, illegal U.S. Secret Service flights over European airspace and visa-free entry for European citizens to the U.S., these issues were apparently not taken up in earnest.

Laura Petricola (laurajopetricola@yahoo.com) writes from Athens, Greece.