A UK newspaper has reported that officials from Gazprom and its Ukrainian equivalent, Naftogaz Ukraine, held discussions in Brussels recently with the Energy Charter Treaty secretariat.

<p>The Times newspaper reports that the meeting was designed to press forward efforts to secure European gas supplies following the crisis at the turn of the year, which prompted Russia to turn off supplies to Ukraine, and consequently parts of Europe too.<br /><br />There is mounting pressure on Russia to implement the Energy Charter Treaty, which it signed up to in 1991. The Times quotes Andre Mernier, secretary-general of the ECT, as saying that the charter provides a basis for resolving potential transit disputes between our member countries, without disrupting gas transit.<br /><br />The Russians are apparently stalling on ratification because of their fears that the charter is weighted in favor of Europe&#0039;s interests. However the report suggests that many experts believe that Gazprom&#0039;s hard-line stance is partly horse-trading, and that Russia will adopt the charter as it would provide a meaningful framework for its export strategy, especially where the former Soviet satellite states are concerned.<br /><br />Meanwhile, the president of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, and the Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel are to meet Russia premier Vladimir Putin at a summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi this week. Security of energy supply is likely to be top of the agenda. <br /><br />Yet the negotiations are likely to be tense, with evidence already emerging that Gazprom and the Russia government will take a tough stance with Europe.<br /><br />We are prepared to provide Europe with oil and gas on a long-term basis, and we are taking on the role of the leader, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper quoted a Russian official who is preparing the agenda for this summer&#0039;s G8 summit as saying.<br /><br />We will continue our expansion whether our European partners like it or not. If they want, then with European energy companies, but we will lead, the official added.</p>