Bush arrived from Slovenia on the second leg of a farewell tour of Europe before he leaves office in January. The US leader was to fly by helicopter to Meseberg Palace, a government guesthouse north of Berlin, where he and his wife Laura were to dine with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer.
Bush attended his final US-European Union summit in Slovenia where he and European leaders warned Iran of new sanctions if it refused to halt a nuclear programme the West suspects to be a covert atomic weapons drive.
He also surprised his audience by saying he believed it was possible to win a global accord on climate change before the curtain went down on his presidency. But he reiterated that any deal must bind emerging economies such as India and China as well.
Last year Merkel welcomed Bush to Germany for a Group of Eight summit in which she won some concessions from him on climate change – albeit non-binding pledges on the reduction of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.
Deputy German government spokesman Thomas Steg said Monday that along with US-European trade and Iran’s sensitive nuclear work, global warming would play a prominent role during Merkel’s talks with Bush.
“The chancellor would of course like to ensure that the initiatives launched in Heiligendamm are revisited and acted upon so we do not lose sight of the ambitious goals on climate protection,” Steg said.
Bush’s European tour will take him to Italy Wednesday, then the Vatican, France and Britain. This is his fifth visit to Germany since taking office, after previous sojourns garnished with curry sausage, a “dry” toast and barbecued boar.
Here are some of the highlights, and low points, when Germany played host to the US leader:
MAY 2002, BERLIN: Bush’s first official visit to Germany does not go as smoothly as planned. Thousands of Germans hit the streets of the capital to protest against US sabre-rattling over Iraq and its refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on slashing greenhouse gases. A “historic” speech at the restored Bundestag lower house of parliament garners only tepid applause. And at a folksy dinner with then chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Bush cannot bring himself to try curry sausage, his host’s favourite dish.
FEBRUARY 2005, MAINZ: Bush and Schröder meet behind the closed doors of a castle to try to make amends after the chancellor’s vocal opposition to the Iraq war. Security forces keep hundreds of protesters at bay but inside the ingredients for a friendly chat are lacking. Schröder stands to deliver a toast to the president but his aides forget to place a glass at the podium.
JULY 2006, STRALSUND/TRINWILLERSHAGEN: Chancellor Angela Merkel, who worked hard to restore transatlantic ties after her election in 2005, prepares a down-home welcome for Bush in her electoral district on the Baltic Sea. The president accepts a gift of pickled herring on Stralsund’s handsome Old Market Square and jokingly mimes eating one out of the small barrel. Bush later mans the carving knife to serve grilled roast boar from a spit and asks locals about growing up in communist East Germany. Left-wing officials boycott the barbecue, the most expensive in state history. The police presence alone for the day-and-a-half-long visit costs nearly €15 million ($23 million).
JUNE 2007, HEILIGENDAMM: Bush remains the last hold-out on a climate protection deal for the Group of Eight most industrialised nations. In the end Merkel is able to announce an agreement – albeit non-binding – for the richest nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Russian President Vladimir Putin offers out of the blue to participate in highly contentious US plans to build a missile defence shield in Europe. Bush is caught off guard, having only just recovered from a bout of gastroenteritis overnight. His aides insist the German food at the summit is not to blame, citing a virus as the culprit.