Minister of Finance and ANO leader Andrej Babiš has said he will reveal the ownership of his Stork’s Nest farm and conference centre before a lower house debate about it. The ownership is at the centre of a scandal over whether the finance minister received European grants for the project totaling just over 50 million crowns which it should not have qualified for. Mr. Babiš made the comments before meeting President Miloš Zeman about the issue. The farm project outside Prague was at one stage in 2007 and 2008 owned by the minister’s massive Agrofert agro-chemical group but ownership was later changed. Agrofert would not have been entitled to the European funds targeted at small and medium sized firms. A special session of the lower house is expected on March 23 to discuss the issue.
Czech electricity producer ČEZ has said that it will not make a binding bid for the German coal mine and power plant assets of the Swedish-based power company Vattenfall. CEZ said that low wholesale electricity prices and uncertainty over whether brown coal power plants might have to be closed early deterred it from making a bid. The state controlled company added though that it was still prepared to talk about other options for the German assets. Separately, Czech Coal said it had made a bid for the assets. Later, Czech energy group EPH said it made a joint bid along with the PPF Investments company.
The Czech upper house, the Senate, has approved on of finance minister Andrej Babiš’ flagship measures aimed at combatting tax avoidance, so-called electronic cash registers. Attempts to amend the proposal or stall debate from members of right-wing parties failed. The controversial move now just needs to be approved by head of state, Miloš Zeman. The minister reckons the measure will curb tax avoidance to the tune of 18 billion crowns a year. Opponents say it adds another burden to small business and will not deliver on the promise of extra tax revenues.
The Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has declared his surprise at the reports that the Catholic Church is seeking the return of former church property held by regions and local councils. In the past, the church said it would not seek the restitution of such property if a 1991 law on the return of property was not broken. It appears now though that the church is suggesting that the law was broken in some cases. One of those cases appears to be a school in Mikulov which has been run since 2000 by the South Moravian region. The prime minister says the issue should be discussed in the Cabinet.
So-called stress tests have been carried out on Prague’s Libeň bridge in an attempt to determine its state of repair. Six 40-tonne lorries crossed the bridge across the Vltava river overnight on Tuesday to determine how it performed. The bridge, opened in 1928 and the only Cubist style bridge in the world, is believed to be in a series state of disrepair. Heavy traffic is now limited on it and certain types of trams are banned from crossing on it. Prague City Hall earlier this year resisted calls for the bridge to be demolished.
The Czech Cabinet gave prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka a mandate to press Greece to move faster in returning immigrants to Turkey. The mandate applies to the European Summit taking place Thursday and Friday dealing with unfinished business with Turkey over the immigration crisis and possible solutions. Under a proposed new framework, for every illegal Syrian immigrant returned to Turkey, Ankara would have the right to send a Syrian with a valid asylum claim to the EU. Turkey is asking for 3 billion euros more as part of the new package that it was granted back in November.
The Czech Cabinet on Wednesday approved a doubling in the charges that mining companies must pay for open cast mining of brown coal. The increased charges could result in around 400 million crowns in extra annual revenues for the state. Some of those revenues could be used to restore some of the damage caused by open cast mining according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The increased charges will not affect deep mining charges which will remain unchanged.
The Czech Republic’s biggest car maker, Škoda Auto, has announced a record profit for 2015 of around 19.1 billion crowns. That is an advance of around 6.5 percent on the profit for 2014. Overall turnover for the company rose to around 338 billion crowns, an increase of 6.2 percent on the previous year. Škoda Auto said it will be hiring around 2,000 more employees in the country this year.
The British Royal Mail has issued a postage stamp in honour of Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved the lives of 669, mostly Jewish children, by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia before the outbreak of WWII. Sir Nicholas died last year at the age of 106. The British first class stamp, which is part of a set issued in honour of British humanitarians, features a black-and-white photograph of Mr Winton by Matej Divizna. Last year, a stamp in honour of Mr Winton was issued by the Czech Post Office.
In tennis, Karolína Plíšková has advanced to the quarter-finals at the Indian Wells Masters Series for the first time in her career, after beating Britain’s Johanna Kontao 7:6, 3:6, 6:3. The Czech world number 19 will face Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in the next round. Another Czech, Barbora Strýcová, was forced to retire from the match with Romania’s Simona Halep due to illness, when she was losing 3:6, 0:1.