Tuesday news briefing — Oct. 28, 2014

Prime Minister Sobotka marks 96th anniversary of birth of Czechoslovakia; Zeman flies back from China on plane belonging to PPF instead of the state; electricity, heat subsidies for 2015 to remain unchanged

Sobotka marks birth of Czechoslovakia

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, ČSSD) laid a wreath at the statue of Jan Žižka, the 15th-century Hussite leader, on Prague’s Vítkov Hill today to mark the 96th anniversary of the birth of independent Czechoslovakia, which is a Czech national holiday.

The event was also attended by Senate deputy chairmen Zdeněk Škromach (ČSSD) and Přemysl Sobotka (Civic Democrats, ODS), Chamber of Deputies Chairman Jan Hamáček (ČSSD), Defense Minister Martin Stropnický (ANO), Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-ČSL), Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army Petr Pavel, National Museum Director Michal Lukeš and other personalities, who also laid wreaths at the Vítkov Memorial.

Soldiers and Prague Castle guards were present at the meeting, which was watched by several dozens of Praguers.

A minute of silence was observed in commemoration of soldiers who fell in World War I. Czechoslovakia, one of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s successor states, was established Oct. 28, 1918.

“The then-Czechoslovakia was a very modern and progressive state that we can be proud of,” Sobotka told the Czech News Agency (ČTK).

Later today, the celebrations will culminate with a ceremony at Prague Castle where President Miloš Zeman will bestow state honors on several individuals.

Zeman flies aboard PPF Group plane from China

Czech President Miloš Zeman returned Monday night from his official visit to China aboard a plane belonging to the PPF financial group of Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, which has business interests in China, the Presidential Office confirmed to ČTK.

PPF owns the Home Credit firm that offers loans to the Chinese. Zeman praised the Chinese authorities for their support for Home Credit during his visit.

Ahead of the flight, Zeman’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told news server of the tabloid daily Blesk that Zeman would be flying with the PPF plane because it would save him time and enable him to attend the naming of new generals Tuesday.

Unlike the government aircraft, the PPF plane has no stopover, which makes the flight two hours shorter, Ovčáček said.

Two government planes went to China as Zeman was accompanied by a large delegation of Czech entrepreneurs.

Server Blesk.cz writes that representatives of the J&T group, which signed a contract with the CEFC corporation in China, also used the PPF plane.

Czech electricity, heat subsidies to remain unchained in 2015

The Czech government today decided on next year’s electricity and heat subsidies amounting to 15.7 billion Kč, the same as this year, the Cabinet said on its website.

The decision, which has to be adopted every year by Oct. 31, is needed for the subsequent use of subsidies, said Filip Matys of the Industry and Trade Ministry’s press department.

In a report sent to the ministry in September, the ERÚ regulator asked for 13.814 billion Kč worth of subsidies. It said the amount will further be specified depending on, for instance, prices of base load electricity and overall electricity consumption.

The ministry assigned the growth in the subsidy to a change in the electricity payment system favoring end customers.

Radek Ležatka, the spokesman for the Finance Ministry, said it is not an additional expenditure and that the sum has already been included in the 2015 state budget draft.

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