Millions spent on royal visits

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Norwegian taxpayers will be footing the bill for more than NOK 8 million to be spent on official traveling for the royal family next year. King Harald and Queen Sonja are on a state visit to South Africa this week, at a cost of NOK 1.5 million, but officials think it’s worth it.

The royal couple arrived in Johannesburg on Monday and was in Pretoria on Tuesday, for a seminar, courtesy calls on South African leaders and a banquet.

On Wednesday they were due in Cape Town for lunch with former Nobel Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu and FW DeKlerk and several other events before heading back to Norway on Friday.

They’re traveling with a delegation of around 90 leaders of Norwegian companies keen on doing business in South Africa, with the royals acting as door openers.

Also along on the royal tour are Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, the cabinet minister in charge of higher education and research Tora Aasland, several other state secretaries and the top bureaucrat at the foreign ministry, Bjørn T Grydeland, among others.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that the state visit is costing a total of around NOK 1.5 million, and that NOK 8.4 million will be spent on such royal trips next year. The trip to South Africa is the royal couple’s 38th state visit since King Harald became monarch in 1991.Airline tickets alone for the official delegation amounted to NOK 350,000, with the royals flying first class and other government officials seated in business class. Another NOK 254,000 was earmarked for lodging, gifts and ground transport.

Two trips made by palace and foreign ministry officials to plan the state visit cost around NOK 148,000, while NOK 150,000 was set aside for a Nobel exhibition that was to be officially opened in Cape Town by Queen Sonja.

A foreign policy seminar being held at the University of Pretoria on Tuesday and diverse expenditures added around NOK 100,000 to the budget.

“It’s not easy to account for the value of a state visit,” Carl Erik Grimstad, a former palace official and now a commentator on royal affairs, told Aftenposten . “Many, especially those who take part, speak positively of their value, though.”

The actual amount of money spent on state visits is also generally viewed as small. “State visits are the most common form for communication between two countries,” Grimstad noted.