Gaza and Gas set the main agenda of Czechs
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Prague, Jan 12 (CTK) - The situation in the Gaza Strip and problems with the Russian gas supplies have dominated the work of the Czech Republic since the beginning of Presidency. See review of main events during the Czech EU presidency 
 

January 1:
The Czech Republic assumes EU presidency.

 

January 3:
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's spokesman for Czech EU presidency Jiri Potuznik commits a diplomatic faux-pas whenin the first reaction to the Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip he said that it is a defensive action. Czech diplomacy then issued an official statement on behalf of the Czech EU presidency in which it called for a ceasefire and stressed that not even the right to protection allows actions against civilians. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg called Potuznik's words a mistake for which the there is no need to apologise. The influential Gaddafi Foundation, headed by the Libyan leader's son Saif Islam Gaddafi, demanded an apology for Potuznik's words, otherwise it threatened with the interruption of diplomatic relations between Libya and the Czech Republic. Topolanek did not accept Potuznik's resignation that he offered in reaction to the mistake.

 

January 4-6:
Schwarzenberg heads the EU Troika mission to the Middle East in which European External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana; along with the Swedish and French foreign ministers, Carl Bildt and Bernard Kouchner. The mission did not reach its main goal to agree on an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas Palestinian radical movement. French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the same time leads talks in the Middle East, Sarkozy and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. They worked out a plan for truce in the area which has not yet been adopted. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer criticised the parallel talks of the EU's official mission and Sarkozy. Fischer called the EU mission chaotic. Topolanek, on the contrary, welcomed Sarkozy's activity. U.S. president-elect Barack Obama welcomed the Czech Republic's role in the Middle East mission on January 8.

 

January 6:
The EC and the Czech presidency delegation, headed by Industry and Trade Minister Martin Riman, negotiate in Berlin with representatives of the Gazprom Russian gas company. The same delegation led talks in Ukraine a day earlier.

 
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January 7:
The first meeting of the Czech government with the European Commission takes place in Prague. The talks mainly focused on the crisis caused by the restricted Russian gas supplies to Europe and the situation in the Gaza Strip. A gala event marking the beginning of the Czech EU presidency was held in Prague's National Theatre in the evening where Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra symbolically took over the EU flag from Bruno Le Maire, French state secretary for European affairs, as a symbol of EU presidency. A number of politicians and artists, including former Czech president Vaclav Havel, attended the event, but President Vaclav Klaus did not come. Klaus received the EC headed by its President Jose Barroso at Prague Castle, the presidential seat, on the same day. After the meeting, Klaus said the current Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis is not a European matter, but a business matter between Russia and Ukraine

 

 

January 8:
An extraordinary meeting of heads of the Russian Gazprom, Ukrainian Naftogaz company, the Czech EU presidency and the EC takes place in Brussels at the initiative of the Czech presidency about the resumption of gas supplies to Europe, but the talks collapsed. The EU agreed on a monitoring mission with Kiev, but not with Moscow. Topolanek announced in the evening he agreed with Russian PM Vladimir Putin on the conditions of placing monitoring teams at all the points relevant for the flow of Russian gas. Schwarzenberg supports Turkey's accession to the EU at a meeting with journalists and condemns the alleged prejudices of many West European countries towards Turks.

 

January 9:
Topolanek talks in Prague with his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg about the Middle East conflict and problems with Russian gas flows to Europe; Topolanek invited Norway to the EU's monitoring mission. In the afternoon, Topolanek discussed details of the mission with Ukrainian Viktor Yushchenko and PM Yuliya Tymoshenko in Kiev.

 

January 10:
Industry and Trade Minister Martin Riman and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin sign document on the creation of a control mechanism allowing monitoring of transit of Russian gas via Ukraine. Topolanek, as a representative of the EU-presiding country, also negotiated in Moscow on gas supplies. In the evening he left for Kiev again.

 

 
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January 11:
Ukraine signs an agreement with Russia and the EU to allow monitoring of gas transit from Russia to Europe via its territory, Ukrainian PM Tymoshenko and Topolanek announce at a joint press conference in Kiev.