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Germany

German Politicians Offer Harsh Assessment of Bush Legacy

As US President George W. Bush begins his European farewell tour arriving in Berlin Tuesday, leading German politicians strongly criticized the American leader's nearly eight years in office.

President Bush gestures during a press conference

Bush's European tour starts on Tuesday

Bush will likely try to avoid controversy as he embarks on his last official trip to Europe.

But that didn't keep leading figures German politicians harshly criticizing the US leader in a survey assessing the Bush legacy by newspaper, Stuttgarter Nachrichten.

Bush caused grave damage to the US reputation around the world, said Hans-Ulrich Klose, the deputy head of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee and a Social Democrat.

"One really can not say that George W. Bush made the world better," Klose said.

World "worse off"

Protestors hold sign Bush go home

Past Bush visits have brought out protestors

The view was echoed by the leader of Germany's opposition Liberal Democrats, Guido Westerwelle.

"The Bush era was not good, neither for America nor for anyone who, like I, considers America a friend," said Westerwelle.

Bush "made the world noticeably worse," said former environment minister and Green Party head Juergen Trittin, who faulted the US president for ignoring human rights and democracy.

"The credibility of democracy in the world has suffered dramatically because of Bush's double standards," Trittin said.

Full agenda at EU summit

Bush's first stop in Europe will at be the annual European Union-US summit being held at a secluded luxury resort outside the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.

Diplomats said the summit would focus on a joint declaration on issues such as global security, trans-Atlantic trade, climate change and energy.

Merkel, Sarkozy, Gordon Brown graphic with an EU flag

Top European leaders will meet with Bush

Disagreements over the US's refusal to include all EU member countries in its visa waiver program are also expected to surface.

"It is only right that citizens of all the US' EU allies be given the opportunity to travel visa-free across the Atlantic," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU commissioner in charge of handling the bloc's external relations.

The US currently only allows citizens from some countries to enter the US without a visa and has resisted EU efforts to open trans-Atlantic travel to everyone in the bloc.

Bush wants backup in Afghanistan

The US has also kept up pressure on European allies to do more in Afghanistan and Bush seemed likely to continue to press the issue. The US wants European nations to supply more combat troops for the NATO-led security force.

"Got a lot of work to do in Afghanistan," Bush said Monday at the White House before leaving for Europe. "The countries I'm going to have committed troops to Afghanistan, and, of course, I want to thank them, and remind them there's a lot of work to be done."

Bush, Merkel to have informal chat

President Bush greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she arrives at his ranch in Crawford, Texas

Merkel gets a big Texas welcome at the Bush ranch

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has a better relationship than most world leaders with Bush.

Bush and Merkel will meet together at the secluded Schloss Meseberg near Berlin after the summt finishes Tuesday. Bush has warm feelings for Merkel, who he described as "a fine chancellor, whom I'm proud to call a friend," a few months after she took office in November, 2005. Both are right of center politically, basing their politics on self-help, small government and the family unit.

The friendship persists despite clear differences on major international themes.

Merkel staunchly advocates cutting greenhouse gas emissions to counter climate change while Bush has been reluctant to act. The German chancellor places the United Nations at the center of her international politics while the Bush presidency has bypassed the UN at every crucial point.

Merkel is likely to push Bush on trade. The US and Europe need to optimize trade conditions in light of competition from China, India and Brazil, Merkel wrote in a guest column for the center-left daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"That means effective economic reforms and ambitious innovation," she said.

Trade, weak dollar

Woman with dollar sunglasses and a flag hat

The dollar just isn't what it used to be

A main message Bush will bring to Europe is his concern about the weak US economy and the fall of the dollar, which has tumbled to record lows against the euro this year. As he spoke to reporters Monday, the euro reached a six-week high of $1.5845.

"I'll talk about our nation's commitment to a strong dollar," he said. "A strong dollar is in our nation's interests. It is in the interests of the global economy."

Rising food and oil prices are also likely to be a theme as Bush meets with European leaders.

"The current oil and food price rises show how important the EU-US cooperation is at a global level," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement Monday.

After visiting Berlin, Bush will move on to Italy, the Vatican, France and Britain.

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