Albert would like the State to pay for some of his expenses
Toward the end of his reign, Albert II received an allotment that amounted to 11.5 million EUR.
Since his abdication, he no longer receives an allotment (it transfers to the reigning king, making Philippe the beneficiary). Instead, he has an allowance provided by law. From here on, he must "content" himself with the terms of the government's decision followed by a parliamentary vote, in the amount of 923,000 EUR (the equivalent of what the crown prince was receiving). However, a new development occurred during allowance reforms legislated by the Di Rupo government in June. From now on, royal allowances are subject to VAT and excise taxes as well as personal income taxes on any portion considered to be income. This would deprive Albert of about 200,000 EUR.
Along with this public manna, ten state agents are assigned to Albert above and beyond his security needs (this number will be reevaluated in 5 years). Albert's lifestyle and all the luxury that was part of his royal function have changed significantly. So is this allowance enough, not enough or excessive for an abdicated king who no longer has the expenses he once did?
Albert complains bitterly
We learn from well-informed sources that Albert II is complaining bitterly over his allowance. Let's understand the sum he received and its limitations. He opened up to several people close to him since summer (and also to some political figures) to this tune: this country that I served for decades is ungrateful, the former queen of the Netherlands, Beatrix (1) or the former Grand-Duke Jean of Luxembourg (who also abdicated) did not suffer such shabby treatment. "He says that he has not been treated as he had hoped and this puts him in a bind," they continue.
These complaints have made their way to several people in the (new) palace. It seems obvious that Albert II is very depressed by his new financial situation, to such a degree, we're told, that he spends most of his time abroad on his property in Châteauneuf de Grasse in France, or in his apartment in Rome, or in his home on Île Saint-Louis in Paris rather than in Belgium.
His family is trying to intervene
In view of the king's low morale and these financial recriminations, some who are close to him are trying to find solutions to indirectly increase his revenues, his "spending money." Since his allowance was set by law, it cannot be altered without another parliamentary vote within a budgetary context of which everyone is aware.
What idea did his close friends and family come up with? If some costs that are paid out of the king's allowance can be taken over by the state, it would relieve him...
For instance, one idea would be to have the State in some way finance the Belvédère's (Albert and Paola's residence) management, upkeep and/or heating. There is also mention of fuel for the royal yacht, the "Alpa", registered with the military (the crew was made up of military personnel). Couldn't the Navy absorb those costs?
The royal allowance allocated to pay for some of Albert and Paola's expenses, can no longer cover them.
Negotiations on a political level
Currently, though, we're no longer in a situation where only those close to the king intercede in his favor. We are told that negotiations are ongoing between King Albert and some political entities through the head of Albert's household who was formerly the civil list administrator, Vincent Pardoen. The goal remains to secure financing of expenses by certain departments.
"Some signals were sent in that direction;" "The king has approached several members of the government," confirm several very reliable sources. Clear signals were sent to the prime minister and to several vice-premiers.
Could the royal request get the desired response? In these lean budgetary times, would the government be ready to loosen the purse-strings a little for Albert II? As of yesterday, we have not been able to get a conclusive answer.
Some officials tell us "off the record" that the royal allowance, which was negotiated last summer between Albert (through Vincent Pardoen) and the government (the prime minister's office), was voted on in parliament. Period. In other words: It will not be changed. We can imagine the parliamentary debate, and the N-VA's reaction, if an expansion of the royal allowance was put on the agenda. Could the State take over some of the expenses now financed by Albert? No answer yet: enthusiasm must be lacking. However, a whisper in our ear says, "Albert II is a man with merit who was king for 20 years. He must be treated correctly."
Stony silence from the Belvédère
The palace, through its communications and media manager, is keeping its silence when asked about Albert's approach. He neither confirms, denies, nor comments. No further comment is coming out of the Belvédère either. "There is no reaction on King Albert's side," we're told. Here's an interesting message worth decoding: Albert has no reaction, but he's not denying it. Since we have been quietly reminded that when completely false information is making its rounds, the habit of the Palace is to attempt to stop it outright - to deny it immediately. This is not the case this time.
How would public opinion react if they learn of the king's request for greater means while the economic crisis is still undermining Belgium? We'll find out very quickly. Is it reasonable to react negatively to the new king with an unfavorable judgment of a "monarchy that lives a sheltered life and doesn't understand reality"? Since his coronation, Philippe has been careful to not appear to be spending too much. He consented to a de facto reduction to his allotment compared to his father's, since he is receiving 11.5 million EUR as Albert did, except with a large family. This amount is now subject to VAT and excise taxes that eat away about 700,000 EUR.
The message sent by Philippe's entourage is that he is not involved in any way in his father's request - knowing also that he had nothing to do with Albert's allowance negotiation.