BRUSSELS – After a serene visit to the Vatican and with Pope Francis, U.S. President Donald Trump arrived Wednesday in Brussels as thousands of anti-Trump demonstrators took to the streets and the Belgian prime minister said he spoke with the president "without taboos."
Trump, who a year ago said Brussels had turned into a "hellhole," oozed charm as he met with Belgian King Philippe and moved onto a powwow with top ministers on the eve of a NATO summit, the main event of his two-day stopover in Belgium.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said he insisted that Trump should unequivocally back the Paris Agreement on climate change and honor the U.S. commitment to multilateral trade agreements, two issues about which Trump has raised doubts.
"It was a discussion without taboos. There was no diplomatic language. The messages were direct from both sides," Michel said of their meeting.
Climate change will take center stage at a G-7 meeting in Sicily on Friday, and Trump has yet to clearly commit to respecting the landmark Paris Agreement aimed at controlling global warming.
Trump and Michel said they were on the same page when it came to terrorism, once again an immediate topic in Europe in the wake of the Manchester, England attack this week.
"We will win. 100 percent," said Trump, whom Michel called an ally in the global fight against terror.
About a mile (kilometer) away, thousands of protesters shouting "We don't want Trump! We don't want Trump!" were not as kind toward the visiting president. They harangued Trump on everything from his plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to his treatment of women and promotion of the coal industry.
"We are here today because we are against sexism. This is my main reason, and I find Trump really horrible," demonstrator Dorien Vanden Boer said.
The route of the marchers stayed away from the U.S. Embassy and the Royal Palace, where Trump was holding meetings.
Trump had a light schedule in Brussels on Wednesday before talks with European Union top officials scheduled for Thursday morning and a full summit of NATO leaders in the evening. Trump plans to fly to Sicily late Thursday.