Crown Prince Haakon is off traveling again, this time on official business in the Middle East. He was called on to formally open a facility that ranks as Norway’s largest foreign investment ever.
The crown prince (photo, at left) was once again in the company of Norway’s government minister for business and trade, Trond Giske. Together, they’re presiding with the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, over the opening of the aluminum plant Qatalum.
Norwegian metals firm Norsk Hydro has invested around NOK 33 billion (around USD 5.5 billion) in the plant and led development of the facility, a joint venture with Qatar Petroleum. The Norwegian state is the largest shareholder in Hydro.
Also along for the trip are the government minister in charge of oil and energy, Terje Riis-Johansen, and a state secretary in the foreign ministry, Erik Lahnstein, both of the Center Party.
Around 70 representatives of Norwegian business and industry are along as well, since the Norwegian royals often act as door-openers on business trips abroad.
The trip to Qatar marks the first time a member of the Norwegian royal family has been on an official trip to the United Arab Emirates, of which Qatar is a member. The crown prince also visited a local school for children of Norwegian employees in Qatar, and an Islamic art museum in Qatar’s capital of Doha.
Crown Prince Haakon has logged a lot of international travel in recent months, including visits to the World Economic Forum in Davos, to the Olympics in Vancouver and to Malaysia.
He left for Qatar just as news broke that he and Crown Princess Mette-Marit will likely be spending their summer holidays closer to home. They recently bought a summer house on an island off Risør on Norway’s southern coast and now will also be allowed to take over a publicly owned villa on an island off Kristiansand.
For security reasons, the royals demanded they be allowed to erect a fence cutting across the entire width of the island, to keep the public away from their soon-to-be-private compound.
The fence has sparked protests from environmental groups and several political parties, saying such a structure would never be allowed built by anyone else, and claiming that it will limit public access to the island. The political opponents were overruled in the city council.
After Qatar, the crown prince will join his parents and Crown Princess Mette-Marit in Copenhagen, to take part in royal festivities tied to the 70th birthday party for Danish Queen Margrethe.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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