Five years after a lone right-wing terrorist drove a bomb-laden van right up to the entrance of Norway’s government headquarters, with devastating results, the Royal Palace in Oslo remains vulnerable to such an attack. Security experts are sounding alarms over an alleged lack of security at the historic home of King Harald and Queen Sonja in the heart of the capital.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday that both police and security staff at the palace were shaken earlier this month when a man ignored signs prohibiting unauthorized vehicles on palace grounds and actually did drive a grey delivery van up to the plaza in front of the Royal Palace. Both the royal guards on duty outside the palace entrance, the king’s body guards and Oslo Police reacted quickly, cordoning off the area while a bomb group using a robot checked the van for explosives.
The man driving it turned out to be mentally disturbed, according to police, and there were no injuries. The incident, however, highlighted the fact that there still are no physical barriers in place around the palace to restrict vehicular access.
Norway’s Parliament building, the Foreign Ministry and most other government ministries are now protected by barriers while the Royal Palace remains open and accessible. Norwegians have long prided themselves on maintaining such openness, but experts warn the palace is much too vulnerable.
“The Royal Guards have many functions, and they managed to deal with the man who emerged from the van,” Sunniva Meyer, who specializes in security research at the state institute for transport economics (Transportøkonomisk institutt), told NRK. “But in order to actually stop a vehicle, much tougher measures are demanded.”
A security report from 2014 noted that both the state and the City of Oslo wanted to “reduce the consequences of, or possibility for, vehicles being able to drive right up to public buildings.” The report was signed by, among others, the head of the palace staff (hoffsjefen).
Nothing has been done since, however, to eliminate that situation at the palace. NRK reported that it’s aware of risk analyses conducted around the palace, which highlighted concrete deficiencies in security that haven’t been addressed. Proposed measures reportedly included physical barriers set up around the palace grounds.
‘Security analysis completed…’
“Since the hoffsjef signed the report, we must assume that such security measures are relevant for the palace, and that they have considered securing the palace better,” Meyer told NRK.
Gunnar Angeltveit, a special adviser specializing in crisis management, believes the incident in early April illustrates that security at the palace isn’t good enough. “When someone with the wrong intentions manages to drive up to the palace, it will be too late,” he told NRK. “Unfortunately it almost always happens that it’s only after a serious incident that steps are taken to prevent it from happening again.”
Palace spokeswoman Marianne Hagen responded to the criticism in an email to NRK: “At the end of 2015, a security analysis of royal properties was completed. Measures will be taken in response to the analysis in the coming years. Some of the measures will be visible, others not.”