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'Royal birthday fete lays bare need for a republic'

Published: 11 Jul 2013 16:24 GMT+02:00

Norwegian Crown Princess Mette-Marit turns 40 next month and a suitably big bash is planned, with large resources devoted to protecting the privileged few. An estimated 40 security guards have been drafted in to ensure all of the royal elite feel safe - not bad, eh?

News of the security outlay generated plenty of headlines in Norway, with online readers getting especially irritated in the comments section. Of course, the figures were deemed to be exaggerated, but it was claimed the police and justice ministry would foot the bill. 

A bill of 3.7 million - which could fund four nursing homes for an entire year - for security is excessive. Surely there are plenty of police and security officers who would rather put their feet up on holiday than hide in the bushes and protect the nobles. That the price wasn't higher is probably just luck. The police have said this added task doesn't go beyond their regular work, which seems a bit improbable. 

Norway has one of the most expensive monarchies in Europe, near double the per capita price of the Dutch royals, but putting an exact price tag on their activities is difficult. Even if the Royal Court (Kongehuset) released all its expenses, we're certain a thing or two would remain hidden in some bank account or other. 

Even minor events that the royals host or attend entail six-figure costs to the treasury. They can go to the opening of a library, listen to a seminar, or visit a charity - all triggering the security merry-go-round with road blocks, sniffer dogs, and cordoned-off areas, not to mention staff at whatever place they are set to visit having to rehearse their welcome and to decorate the place as best they can. 

Let's not forget to mention the huge number of children in daycare or schools who through the ages have been deployed to wave when a royal highness walks or is driven by. Using kids as wave-fodder is fortunately not expensive, but it still cuts their play time short. 

The Crown Princess, meanwhile, seems to be doing what she can to scrimp on her dress budget by accepting gifts and sponsorships in secret - not such a good move. When the royal family totally unexpectedly had to open up their wardrobes and air out the price tags this July, we learned that such an inspection couldn't take the light of day. Many people are shocked, some have said that the Crown Princess is a danger to the monarchy, and even monarchists are critical.
 
Maybe it's time to privatize the royal family? They can finance themselves by charging an hourly rate for lectures, openings, etc.. 
 
They are certainly commanding resources that could be redirected to other things if we dropped the old-fashioned monarchy. For us, however, the main reason to discontinue the monarchy is because it goes against core principles of democracy. Norway should introduce democratic elections of our formal head of state rather than have the title pass to the family's firstborn.
 
It really is time to discuss the republic. Norway deserves to be able to choose good leaders for the future - not to inherit them from the past. 

Gunnar L. Brevig
Chairman of Norway's Republican Association (Foreningen Norge som republikk)

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

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