Crown Prince Haakon was wrapping up another trip to Brazil this week, helping Norwegian business boost ties despite local corruption scandals and promoting Norway’s funding for rain forest preservation. It’s the business interests, though, that often seem most important and where it’s an advantage to use the royals to gain attention.
The trip didn’t get much coverage in Norwegian media but photos on the government’s own website suggested local interest in the visit by a crown prince. Royals can open doors that commoners can’t, and Norway’s foreign-, trade- and oil ministries are among those that have exploited the draw-power of the Norwegian royal family for years. Crown Prince Haakon does his job and gamely goes along, also to countries that many Norwegians don’t think their country should do business with, like Azerbaijan and some former Soviet republics known for ranking high on corruption lists.
Brazil has also been plunged into corruption scandal recently via its huge state oil company Petrobras, that at least one Norwegian company has been dragged into as well. That was mostly overlooked both in the crown prince’s speech and accounts of his busy day on Tuesday, when he opened a business seminar that drew 500 participants, took part in a promotion of Norwegian seafood, attended a luncheon that highlighted research and education issues, visited a shipyard where Norwegian equipment is placed on board new vessels and attended the “official” opening of another Jotun paint production plant outside Rio de Janeiro. That was all followed by a reception in the evening.
Crown Prince Haakon’s official visit to Brazil was justified on the grounds that Brazil is, as he claimed in his speech at the business seminar, “Norway’s most important business partner in Latin America.” Brazil is also the largest recipient of Norwegian foreign aid, with Norway giving more than NOK 6.5 billion in aid contributions over the past five years, according to researchers at the University of Oslo and Oslo peace research institute PRIO. Most of it goes to environmental measures, and the government minister in charge of environmental protection and climate issues, Tine Sundtoft, was in Brazil in September and could claim that Norway had fulfilled its obligation to support the Amazon rain forest fund.
The crown prince’s father, King Harald, made his own “private” trip to the Amazon just two years ago, and on this week’s trip, Haakon went to Belém, gateway to the Amazon, to keep attention on the area. To help compensate for the carbon emissions of its own oil industry, Norway’s most important international effort to combat climate change is its funding for rain forest preservation, not least in Brazil.
Crown Prince Haakon, who caught criticism last summer for vacationing on board a climate-unfriendly and expensive yacht in the Mediterranean as the guest of unidentified hosts, praised Brazil for delivering “amazing results” in reducing deforestation in the Amazon. He also claimed that both Brazil and Norway “must set ambitious goals, and we must engage in joint efforts … to hand this world over to the next generation in better condition than it was handed over to us.”
The official visit was ending on Thursday, with a visit to Brazil’s institute for space research, to gain insight into satellite surveillance of developments in the Amazon. A trip to a nature preserve was also on the agenda. Haakon has lots of relatives in Brazil, since King Harald’s sister, the late Princess Ragnhild, moved to Rio after her marriage to a Norwegian investor more than 60 years ago. It was unclear whether a family visits were also on the agenda.