‘Bush is a personal friend of mine and a great friend of Italy, giving Rome the privilege of being the European capital that has hosted him on the most visits: he has honored us with his presence six times,' said Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi after meeting with US president George W. Bush in Rome's Palazzo Madama on June 12. Bush, who had already stopped in Germany and Slovenia for the annual US-European Union summit, made a stop in the Italian capital during his farewell tour of Europe.
During the visit, the White House released a statement saying that Bush rated Berlusconi among Europe's strongest leaders: ‘In strong leaders like Berlusconi, Brown, Merkel and Sarkozy, I see a commitment towards a strong and assertive Europe'.
While in Rome, Bush met with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano for talks focusing on global economic issues, in anticipation of the Group of Eight summit that Italy will host next year; the recent food summit held in Rome; and the fight against organized crime.
At an official dinner, the two leaders spoke of Italy's troops in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Lebanon, and discussed the ‘difficult situation' of Iran. ‘On these themes we were completely in sync, just like in the past', said Berlusconi.
President Bush's final stop in Rome ended with a meeting at the Vatican, where he was received by Pope Benedict XVI. They discussed relations between Europe and the US, globalization, the world food crisis and international trade, the Middle East and efforts for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. They also made a joint commitment to defend ‘fundamental moral values'.