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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Palace won’t reveal king’s wealth

Officials at Norway’s Royal Palace are refusing to follow the advice of a broad spectrum of politicians who’ve been calling for more details into the size and nature of King Harald V’s personal fortune. The issue has sparked rare, open criticism of both the king and his staffers.

King Harald and Queen Sonja, shown here at the Olympics earlier this year, try to maintain a folksey image, but the king apparently doesn't want to do what all other Norwegians have to: Reveal their personal fortunes. PHOTO: NRK

Members of Parliament from parties representing both the left and right wings of Norwegian politics have called for more openness from the palace. The latest to join the chorus is former, longtime Labour Party secretary Martin Kolberg, who now holds a seat in Parliament and is deputy leader of its Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs committee (Kontroll- og konstitutionskomité).

“I register that the Palace won’t have any routine publicity tied to its private fortunes and use of it,” Kolberg told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “I acknowledge that, but it would be wise of the king if he has an openness that would remove any doubt about any conflicts of interest.”

The secrecy surrounding King Harald’s private fortune conflicts with tax and finance policies in Norway that demand full openness on the part of all other citizens. A former mayor of Oslo resigned when it emerged that he and his family had several hundred thousand kroner stashed in Swiss bank accounts that hadn’t been reported to the authorities. Even though the king is not subject to tax in Norway, it’s believed he shouldn’t be party to a double standard and should reveal his fortunes.

‘Not natural’
The palace recently responded to the political criticism by revealing only that King Harald’s private fortune amounts to about NOK 100 million (USD 16 million). Palace spokesman Sven Gjeruldsen told DN late last week that “it wouldn’t be natural” to include information about King Harald’s private fortune in annual reports of palace operations. Politicians disagree, not least because they’re being asked to approve large increases in public funding of the royal family and palace operations.

“I noted the King Harald, in his New Year’s address, called for moderation,” the vice president of the Parliament, Øyvind Korsberg of the Progress Party, told DN. “Just a few months later he asks for a raise of 22 percent. At the same time he has a fortune of NOK 100 million.

“Then I think it’s appropriate that we get an overview of what assets the king has before we consider the king’s apanasje (annual royal grant) in the state budget.”

Korsberg, from a party that’s a staunch supporter of Norway’s monarchy, said he was “surprised” that the royal family “which in many ways is very open and folkelig (of the people) so far doesn’t want to follow the advice of a wide range of Members of Parliament, regarding routine openness around a fortune partially placed overseas.”

The pay raises to which Korsberg refers were earlier reported by TV2, which broadcast that they were included in a letter from the Royal Court to the state ministry in charge of administration. The letters reportedly asked for a 22.7 percent increase in the state grant for King Harald and Queen Sonja, and a 7.2 percent increase for Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. The king and queen currently receive NOK 9 million a year, while Haakon and Mette-Marit get NOK 7.5 million a year.

The conflict portrays unusual agreement among politicians from both the left and the right agree on the sensitive issue. The issue also involves highly unusual, not so subtle political criticism of the royal family at high levels.

“It hasn’t occurred very often that such centrally placed elected officials raise their voices against the Palace,” Professor Trond Nordby told DN. “They deserve praise for that.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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