WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2021 - 08:38
King has to keep Het Loo nature reserve open all year or lose subsidy
King Willem-Alexander must keep Kroondomein Het Loo open all year if he wants to keep getting the 4.7 million euros subsidy for the maintenance of the nature reserve, Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality said in a letter that will soon be sent to parliament, sources told NOS.
The nature reserve is closed every year From September 15 to December 25. It is suspected that the royal family uses that time to go hunting in the park, according to the broadcaster.
For years there has been opposition from nature and animal welfare organizations, local residents, and political parties to the annual closure of the nature reserve. The annoyance increased when it turned out that the King receives a subsidy of 4.7 million euros for the maintenance of the nature reserve.
If the King receives subsidy, he must adhere to the subsidy rules, opponents said. The conditions of this subsidy state that nature reserves must be open for 358 days a year - so can only be closed for one week a year.
From 2022, the same subsidy rules will apply to King Willem-Alexander as to other nature reserve subsidy recipients, Schouten said in her letter, according to the broadcaster's sources.
King loses multimillion-dollar subsidy for Kroondomein Het Loo if he continues to close off the area
In order to maintain the multimillion-dollar subsidy for the Crown Domain, King Willem-Alexander must open the nature reserve on the Veluwe 358 days a year. Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten has removed the shadowy exception rules from the subsidy scheme for the coming years.
Niek Megens 8 Sep. 2021 Last update: 08-09-21, 12:19
The minister reports this today in a letter to the House of Representatives. So far, the king has been allowed to lock down the subsidised Crown Domain during the hunting season in order to be able to hunt the Veluwe undisturbed in the autumn.
Campaigners have been objecting to this for years, supported by the Party for the Animals in the House of Representatives. Lawyers have also strongly criticised this. They claim that the king makes improper use of the 4.7 million in subsidy for nature management that the Crown Domain has received over the past five years.
Anyone who wishes to claim this subsidy scheme must open the nature reserve in question to the public 358 days a year. In addition, the applicant may close a maximum of one hectare for private use. That did not happen, because for the royal family, however, the Ministry of Agriculture made an exception in 2016. The king was allowed to close off 7200 hectares of the area from mid-September to mid-December while retaining the multimillion-dollar subsidy.
Only last spring, the minister insisted that 'protection of the privacy' of the king was the reason for this. Earlier, Schouten gave as a reason that closure of the Crown Domain was necessary to preserve the 'unique character of the area'. According to the minister, the periodic closure was 'essential for the balance between wood production, the presence of ungulates and recreation'.
The Crown Domain is a gift from Wilhelmina to the people and must therefore always be accessible
Frank Wassenberg, Party for the Animals
In the new subsidy scheme for the period 2022-2027, none of this is the case anymore. The Ministry of Agriculture will follow the subsidy regulation of the province of Gelderland for the coming years. 'By applying for the subsidy, the applicant undertakes to open the eligible sites for 358 days from dawn to sunset', the minister writes to the Chamber. 'Exceptions to this are fully in line with the conditions of the Gelderland scheme.'
Mp Frank Wassenberg (PvdD) is surprised by Schouten's letter but calls it 'great news'. "If the king wants a subsidy, he simply has to meet the conditions. That's obvious.'' Should Willem-Alexander waive the subsidy, the Crown Domain will still have to remain open throughout the year, says Wassenberg. He rejects a motion to that effect from his party that was passed by the House of Representatives in 2018. "The Crown Domain is a gift from Wilhelmina to the people and must therefore always be accessible. Subsidy or no subsidy.''
Last spring, at the request of the House of Representatives, Minister Schouten released the underlying documents from this file. It could be concluded from this that the exceptional position for the Crown Domain was forced under pressure from the official and political top. Wassenberg deduced from this that this was not the privacy of the king but the hunt that was decisive.
King closes part of Kroondomein Het Loo again on Wednesday
King Willem-Alexander will close part of the Kroondomein Het Loo to the public again next week for three months. This is confirmed by the Government Information Service after reporting by RTL Nieuws.
Yesterday it was announced that the nature reserve may not be closed from 2022, if the king wants to keep a five-yearly subsidy of 4.7 million euros for maintenance. From then on, the same rules apply to the head of state as to other subsidy applicants for nature reserves. This means that the park may only be closed for one week a year.
The Crown Domain can still be closed this year, because the new rules will not take effect until 1 January 2022. The king is therefore not anticipating the new situation, despite the criticism of nature organizations and from politics.
Almost all parties in the House of Representatives demanded clarification about the closure last year. Prime Minister Rutte stressed at the time that the forest is private and that the king, as a large landowner, is free to do whatever he wants with the area.
New grant application
If the king decides to foreke a new subsidy application, the nature reserve may be closed to the public for months. The Government Information Service does not yet want to say whether the king will refrain from such a new multimillion-dollar subsidy. Applications can still be submitted until the end of the year.
The park on the Veluwe is closed annually from 15 September to 25 December. It is suspected that the royal family will then hunt game.
Crown domain closed again for three months to 'privacy' king
Landgoed Kroondomein Het Loo will close for another three months in the autumn, despite the protracted discussion about that annual closure. According to outgoing Minister schouten of Agriculture, the closure of the nature park has to do with the protection of the "privacy" of King Willem-Alexander. She answers this to the House of Representatives to questions from D66 and the Party for the Animals (PvdD).
FRI 23 APRIL, 00:57
Those parties wanted to know exactly what the king's access to the nature park on the Veluwe is. For years there has been discussion about the fact that a large part of the park is closed to the public from September 15 to December 25, while the king receives government money to keep the park in order.
The great-grandmother of King Willem-Alexander, Wilhelmina, gave the Crown Domain to the State in 1959. The king does have the usufruct, that is, he can use it. However, he will receive a subsidy from the government for the maintenance, about 4.7 million euros.
For other grant recipients, they must open a site to the public at least 358 days a year. The king is therefore not allowed to simply close the gates, according to D66, the PvdD and also the Faunabescherming foundation. This is not the first time that they have sounded the alarm. Last year, a majority of the House of Representatives supported a motion to make the Crown Domain publicly accessible throughout the year.
But the cabinet does not agree with this, according to Schouten's answers. On the basis of certain subsidy conditions, the conclusion of the Crown Domain would indeed be possible. The minister says there is a link "with the protection of the king's privacy". No further explanation is given.
So it remains unclear why the park will be closed for three months in the fall. In previous letters, the minister said it was necessary "for the balance between wood production, the presence of large ungulates and the recreational opportunities". PvdD MP Wassenberg wants to know whether the royal yacht plays a role in the cabinet position that the Crown Domain may be closed. Schouten denies this and writes that "there is no link between granting subsidies and managing populations".
Why did the king receive an exception for hunting the Crown Domain? 'This is a clap of hands'
The cabinet deliberately made a derogation for King Willem-Alexander, which allows him to close kroondomein Het Loo three months a year and still receive a subsidy of 4.7 million. The Chamber was not informed about this at the time. That's according to underlying documents released last Friday.
Niek Megens 07-03-21, 15:48 Last update: 08-03-21, 11:20
Campaigners have been objecting to the royal hunt for Kroondomein Het Loo for years. The central question is whether King Willem-Alexander can close the forest and nature reserve near Apeldoorn for three months every year for this purpose. Conservationists don't think so. Now it appears that the government has adjusted an existing scheme to facilitate hunting. "This is a piece of hands in a word," says Member of Parliament Frank Wassenberg (Party for the Animals).
It is fine that the king closes his crown domain on the Veluwe to hunt
No, stop right away! Hunting is out of date (41%)
Fine if he wants to hunt and shut down, but then the subsidy for the area must stop (52%)
No idea, the issue is too complicated for me (7%)
According to the letter of the law, a nature manager who receives government subsidy must open the area to the public 358 days a year. In principle, this also applies to the king, who receives millions for nature conservation. Nevertheless, an exception to this rule was deliberately made, according to the documents that Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten sent to the Chamber on Friday at Wassenberg's insistence.
Gift to the people
Kroondomein Het Loo, a nature reserve between Apeldoorn and Elspeet, was once purchased by the Oranges as a hunting ground. Queen Wilhelmina gave the area as a gift to the Dutch people in 1959, but its management is still the responsibility of the king. It receives an annual subsidy for management and maintenance. For the period 2016-2021, this is 4.7 million euros.
In the hunting season from mid-September to Christmas Day, the king is also allowed to close no less than 7200 hectares of the Crown Domain 'to protect his privacy'. This is contrary to the permit requirements for the subsidy as they apply in the province of Gelderland, because it states that a manager may only keep 1 hectare for private use.
Wopke van der Lei and his wife went to pick cranberries last September despite the closure of the Crown Domain and were promptly hurled at the voucher by a boa. They were guilty, he says, but were acquitted for lack of evidence. © Kevin Hagens
The Gelderland regulations have been used as a basis for the exemption regulation that the Crown Domain reached with the cabinet in 2016. "They have scrapped a crucial provision from the Gelderland scheme," Wassenberg said. "Namely, that subsidized nature areas must be accessible to the public all year round, just one week after a week." Wassenberg deduces from the documents that it was not the privacy of the king but the hunt that was decisive.
It has been knowingly chosen not to follow the royal path and thus the Chamber has been denied information
Frank wassenberg, Member of Parliament party for the animals
This is evident from the released documents. "Within one week in March 2016, two almost identical notes were published in which a passage was added in the second note about the opening times in relation to hunting. I want to know what happened in that week, because you can't deduce that from the pieces. Has there been any intervention from above?'' Wassenberg suspects so. "Prime Minister Rutte and Minister Schouten can answer this."
Fear of unrest
The documents also show that no separate subsidy scheme for the king has been set up for fear of unrest. The Senate and the House of Representatives should be informed about this, and that could cause a political and social fuss. "They have therefore copied and adjusted the Gelderland scheme. It has been knowingly chosen not to follow the royal path and with that the Chamber has been denied information. A political sin'', says Wassenberg.
Prior to the granting of subsidies, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has been frantically emailing back and forth between civil servants how to formulate this exemption. This is ultimately 'primarily motivated by safety considerations for the crown bearer'.
Wassenberg calls that nonsense. "The site is open 8.5 months a year. Then it's safe, isn't it? This is purely about hunting and that can never be a legal basis for the closure of the Crown Domain.''
The Crown Domain has been unfairly closed all this time
Frank Wassenberg, Party for the Animals
Wassenberg believes that the king has a 'moral obligation' to repay the subsidy of millions. "The Crown Domain has been unfairly closed all this time. I assume that the gates will remain open on 15 September this year.'' Wassenberg wants a debate on this issue as soon as possible after the elections.