The gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine occupied most of the discussions between the European Commission and the Czech government, during their first traditional meeting, on 7 January in Prague.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was proud to affirm before the press, at the side of Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, that his Presidency was also quick out of the gate, following the example of its French predecessor. The head of government stressed the energy dossier, insisting on the fact that the EU was close to finding a solution to the difference of opinion between Russia and Ukraine, which is beginning to harm European countries (see page 8). Topolanek and Barroso therefore each held a telephone conference with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko. It has been decided that on 8 January representatives from the Commission, the Czech Presidency, the Russian gas giant Gazprom and the Ukrainian public gas company Naftogaz will gather in Brussels to discuss the deployment of European observers at gas supply points. These representatives will be responsible for checking that transit is up and running once again. If this is not the case, an extraordinary Council of EU energy ministers could be called, on 12 January in Brussels. Confident, Topolanek concluded his speech by saying: "We have started our Presidency with a great deal of momentum and strength, we have been obliged to make efforts and we are delighted to deal with this case with the Commission".

Barroso, for his part, congratulated...

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