Press Conferences

9. 1. 2009 9:59

Press Conference - Czech PM Mirek Topolánek and Norwgian PM Jens Stoltenberg

Jana Bartošová, spokeswoman for Government of the Czech Republic: Good day, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to welcome you to the press conference after the meeting of the delegations of Czech Republic Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and the prime minister of the Kingdom of Norway, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, whom I cordially welcome here. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has the introduction.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CzechRepublic: Greetings to all of you, good day. We're meeting in this hall repeatedly and ever more frequently. It's evident that the Czech presidency will mean greater load on our work as well as yours, and I thank you for informing the public on what is happening in Europe. We have excellent relations with Norway. We have no bilateral problems, are not resolving any bilateral disagreements; on the contrary, from the business and economic side to the most varied other areas, the cooperation is above standard. Norway is not a member of the EU, but is very close to the EU.

When carried out in practice, this means that the Norwegian administration, the Norwegian prime minister – who I thank for his visit – are informed about the new presidency and its priorities, because the priorities of the country holding the presidency and what the EU does of course also have an immediate effect on Norway, which is very closely tied both economically and otherwise with the EU.

In addition, it contributes a certain amount– and it is not a small amount – the Czech Republic alone draws EUR 111 million, I think, for various projects to preserve cultural heritage, for education projects, in the social area, etc. So Norway is very close to us.

We have not only discussed the agenda of the Czech presidency and bilateral issues. We have also discussed current problems, especially, as I constantly say, Gas and Gaza problems, so we have exchanged detailed information on the current situation from my side. I will preempt questions on gas by saying that I will not comment on any details of the current situation. A trip to Kiev awaits me. All the players agree with the monitoring of measurement locations, and if we manage today – because individual commissioners are coming, or individual works of this monitoring mission are going to Kiev to start measuring – then there is a certain hope for an unblocking of the entire problem, but that is roughly all and no specific questions. I apologise, but I will not answer them.

We have also discussed this problem in the context of Norway being one of the main suppliers of natural gas to the European continent. Today Norway supplies roughly 25 % of European consumption, and Norsk Hydro is not just a Norwegian player, but is active in a number of other areas such as the Caspian Sea.

We have discussed the possibility that Norway, through its organizations, ensure participation in this monitoring mission, and after a brief phonecall, Mr. Prime Minister will announce, a specific result of our meetings, that they are willing to contribute to a monitoring mission, because it is organised by the European Union, is paid for by the European Commission, and experts from the European Commission should take part, but mainly those companies, the main players from the European natural gas market, who have experience with measurement, who have experience with the entire natural gas business.

We discussed Carbon Capture Storage, which means storing carbon dioxide. In May a major demonstration and discussion on the usage of storing CO2 in tanks will take place in Norway. It is an issue which thus far is not commercially fully utilized for standard usage, but in its decision from the European Council's decision in December, the EU is counting on the usage of this tool as part of the binding targets it has set. We discussed the summit in Copenhagen, post-Kyoto, which will be a subject of preparations during our presidency, and we discussed a number of other issues, but I will now hand over the floor to my colleague, Mr. Prime Minister Stoltenberg, so that he can introduce you to his contribution as part of this bilateral meeting.

Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway: Thank you so much. First of all, I would like to thank Prime Minister Topolánek for receiving me here in Prague so early in his EU presidency. Only nine days into his EU presidency, and we are very glad that we were able to meet, both to develop the bilateral relationship between our two countries, and to develop the bilateral relationship between Norway and the European Union, which you are representing through your presidency of the European Union.As you said, the bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and Norway are excellent.

We are working closely together with you in many areas. We are partners in NATO, and we are partners in the European Union family, with Norway being a partner in cooperation through the partnership agreement on the European Economic Area, and we have developed our trade and cultural relations over the last years.

We discussed a lot of issues, and we are going to continue our discussions during lunch. But I would just like to highlight two issues which were of particular importance during our talks so far. One is the situation regarding the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine, because we are deeply concerned about the consequences of the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

It has great consequences for many countries, and in a way, it illustrates the importance of energy security and the need for reliable supplies. Therefore, I commend both the CzechRepublic and the European Union for the work they are doing to try to solve and find a solution to the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

One important part of such as solution is to establish independent monitoring commission to monitor the gas flow between the two countries. The Czech prime minister invited Norway to participate in this monitoring commission, and we are positive to participate in such a monitoring commission, given that the European Union invites us and that the parties welcome Norwegian participation.

If we can, through Norwegian experts, take part in the establishment of independent monitoring, we will do so and thereby give our contribution to the solution of this conflict.Norway will continue to be a reliable supplier of gas to Europe.

We are providing around 25 % of total gas imports to Europe; many countries receive up to 40 % of their gas consumption from Norway. And we are in the process of increasing our gas exports to Europe. Since 2000, our exports have almost doubled, and we will continue to increase gas exports to Europe in the years that follow, from around 50 billion cubic meters in 2000 to around 100 billion cubic meters last year, in 2008. We will reach close to 140 billion cubic meters within not so many years.

Actually, this week we exported 345 million cubic meters per day, and that is the highest export ever from Norway into Europe, and that's a result of the gas crisis, which has led to increased exports from Norway to several European countries, thereby increasing Norwegian exports, trying to replace some of the reductions in the exports from Russia through Ukraine.

We also discussed the serious situation in the Middle East, and I welcome strongly the resolution from the UN Security Council calling for an immediate cease fire and a stop to the use of violence, and also that we have to open up for humanitarian assistance without hindrance. We have to do whatever we can to try to facilitate and support the establishment of new peace talks and a lasting peace agreement.

Norway is playing a role through our chairmanship of the International Donors' Group, and the International Donors' Group is mentioned in the Security Council resolution, where the Donors' Group is given the responsibility to increase the aid and support for the people who are suffering in the Gaza Strip. From the Norwegian side, we are going both to convene a meeting for the International Donors' Group, to mobilize international support for the people in the region, for those who are suffering.

We are also increasing our own humanitarian assistance; we are going to provide NOK 50 million. We increased the humanitarian assistance today, and we are going to provide more humanitarian assistance to the people in Gaza because they need help from the international community. We announced NOK 30 million a few days ago and today we announced NOK 20 million more in humanitarian assistance from the people of Norway to the people of Gaza.

Let me just end with what I started with. Thank you for receiving me. Thank you for the excellent relationship between Norway and the Czech Republic. I am looking forward to working closely with you, to stay in close contact with you, and I also wish you all the best as the president of the European Union. Thank you.

Jana Bartošová, press secretary for the Government of the CzechRepublic: Thank you to the prime minister of the Kingdom of Norway, and now for your questions only on the topic, one or two, please.

Jana Erbánková, Czech Television: Good day. I would like to ask both prime ministers: You say that supplies of natural gas to the EU will continue to grow in coming years, but what does that look like with specific supplies to the Czech Republic, because the gas companies are saying that the capacity is already at the maximum. Is it possible to increase even more in coming years?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CzechRepublic: I must say that at the given moment the wise decision in the 1990s to diversify supplies from Russia and the 20 % share from Norway is, with the state of our tanks, giving more restful nights of sleep than some other European countries, especially in the Balkans or in Slovakia. The decision to provide Slovakia with assistance of 4 million cubic meters is support that we can carry thanks due to the decision made in the 1990s.

We have signed a contract, and in this I mean a commercially signed contract between organizations, which is valid until 2015, I think, and if we want to increase it, we can meet and discuss after this date. At a given moment, Norway's capacity is such, as Prime Minister Stoltenberg said, is on the edge. and if they want to increase supplies to Europe and to the Czech Republic with it, then this will mean completely different measures, and in the short term this is not possible.

Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway: As I said, Norway has already increased its export of gas to Europe. We have increased it, when I look back to the year 2000, we exported 50 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe, and now it's around 100. We have increased our gas exports in the last days and weeks, so last week was the highest export ever from Norway. We are in the process of increasing, we have increased and we have increased this winter because of the gas crisis in Ukraine. But of course, if you are going to have substantial increases, then we need to expand our capacity. We are in the process of doing so, so if you look some years into the future, we will increase our exports from around 100 billion cubic meters to up to 140. But that will take some years to reach these new levels of high export.

Jana Bartošová, press spokeswoman for the Government of the CzechRepublic:  Thank you. Next question please.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: This issue of the Ukraine-Russian dispute and the factual non-supply to countries not only of the European Union but to European countries, is accelerating and will be resolved in a matter of days and, recently, rather hours.

At the moment when it has been decided that both countries, both administrations agree with the placement of a European Commission monitoring group, then it began to immediately organize from European Commission experts, mainly, of course, as I have said, experts from possibly the 10 main players on the natural gas market in Europe. I have been convinced and it was my idea that it would not be a bad idea to have the second largest supplier of natural gas in Europe also take part in this mission.

We discussed things immediately, and Mr. Prime Minister immediately tried to connect with his colleagues in Norway, and we immediately agreed that it is possible. Of course these are individuals, and all of the costs will be covered by the European Commission, and I am convinced that there is nothing extraordinary about it.

I would like to thank the Norwegian prime minister very much for his immediate action and immediate solution, because there are six and respectively eight of these routes, and a number of these monitoring locations. If we are really going to fulfil what is expected of us, that monitoring teams will be located at all measurement locations, then we will need a number of experts, and I really welcome the Norwegian prime minister's immediate solution.

Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway: It is in the interest both of sellers and buyers of gas to have a stable and predictable framework around gas exports and imports. Therefore I believe that we need Russian and Norwegian gas, and also gas from other sources into the European market. We are a reliable supplier of gas, and we would like to the contribution of the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine. The key to solving that dispute is to do what the European Union has achieved, namely to agree on independent monitoring.

Norway has a lot of knowledge. We have a lot of experienced experts when it comes to gas transport, gas sales, gas monitoring, and therefore, when the European Union invites Norway to participate, we are welcoming that and we are positive, so if the European Union and the parties in the dispute would like to have Norway, we will send our best experts from Norway to participate in the monitoring of the gas trade, because that is the key for solving the dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Jana Bartošová, press spokeswoman for the Government of the CzechRepublic: Thank you. Last question.

Zachovalová, DPA:  This is a question for Prime Minister Topolánek. You said that you would say not say anything, but despite this, Gazprom just a short while ago said that it would renew deliveries in the event the mission was in place, that the agreement on the placement of the monitoring mission would be signed.  Can you say if all of the observers, the members of the mission, will come to Ukraine today? We have information that a part [of the mission] is in Berlin, or was in Berlin today and that you are going to Kiev because the agreement will be signed?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CzechRepublic: I think you are aware that I will not want to give any details, because this mission is sensitive. Both of the parties are trying to save face and want rather to blame the other for the problem that occurred at the beginning of the year, and do not expect that I will give any details.  Yes, I am going to Kiev and am in close contact with the Russian administration, so that we can complete the talks and practically put the teams, which are gradually being shifted from Berlin to Kiev, in place, where they should be at around 3 o'clock this afternoon. I think that giving any details is unnecessary.

Prime Minister Putin unambiguously assured me that he guarantees, even with out any agreement, the possibility of preparing the work of this independent European mission everywhere in Russia they will be necessary, because the measurements will not take place only in Ukraine, but in Russia as well, so that the entire flow is detailed, so that they can gradually start supplies in such a way that the monitoring will take place.

Yesterday an agreement was signed between the European Commission and the Ukrainian administration and the Naftahas company, namely Mr. Dubina from Naftahas and Mr. Deputy Prime Minister Nemiriji and Mr. Commissioner Piebalgs.

This agreement enables work at all relevant measurement locations in Ukraine, and if it will be necessary to sign an additional agreement, that would be excellent if it were signed as soon as possible, but we are convinced that the unblocking of these supplies is only possible after the individual teams will be placed and verified measurements begin, and both administrations confirm the independent monitoring commission.

Nevertheless, this is all with the condition that the talks take place, so I am mildly optimistic, but do not expect any security or assurances from me that it will be definitively resolved today.

Jana Bartošová, spokeswoman for the Government of the CzechRepublic: Thank you to the prime minister of the Czech Republic and to the prime minister of Norway, thank you for your attention, and goodbye.

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