BRUSSELS, June 18 (RIA Novosti) - The leaders of the 27-member states of the EU gathered on Thursday to open the two-day summer summit in Brussels with housekeeping issues high on the agenda.
With the Czech Republic's six-month presidency of the bloc coming to an end, Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer will ceremoniously pass the chairmanship of the Council of Ministers to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrick Reinfeldt, who will officially take the position on July 1.
The second of the new East European members to hold the presidency, after Slovenia in 2008, the Czech presidency was marred by the fall of the government in March, and the group will hope for more stability from the Swedes.
Another area where the council will seek continuity is in choosing the head of the European Commission, with incumbent President Jose Manuel Barroso expected to be nominated for a second five-year term.
"We have an international climate change negotiation conference coming up in Copenhagen and in order to have a strong European leadership ... we don't need a president of the Commission that is campaigning for his election for many months. So hopefully, we can make a strong decision on that tonight," Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said on Thursday.
"If you ask me, I can't see any alternative at all," he added.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates echoed Denmark's prime minister and said that Barroso had "done a very good job" and that there was "strong support for him, not just because he is Portuguese."
Barroso will also inform the participants on the situation of Russian gas transit via Ukraine after a team of EU experts returned last week from a working visit to Moscow and Kiev.
The EU on Thursday urged Russian energy giant Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz to reach a long-term agreement on secure natural gas supplies.
The leaders will also discuss issues of international relations, in particular the situation in Iran.