The Royal Trust could open Laeken Park to the general public, yet its gates remain closed, according to an internal memo from the authorities relayed by a journalists consortium formed by VRT NWS, De Tijd, Knack and Apache.
The state spends one million euros annually to maintain the estate.
The Royal Park of Laeken is the capital’s green lung with some 180 hectares of greenery, but it is only open three weeks a year so the public can admire the estate’s greenhouses. The visitor’s entrance fee is set at €2.50.
However, Laeken Park is owned 49% by the State and 51% by the Royal Trust and is supposed to be an “independent public institution”. Thus, it does not belong to the royal family, just as Laeken Castle where the sovereign resides.
At the beginning of November, Minister of Justice Koen Geens, in charge of the Building Authority, brought to the attention of Parliament and journalists an internal memo of the Board dating back to 2017. This note indicated that the Laeken domain can indeed be accessible to the general public, but only if the Royal Trust consents. The issue is sensitive, however, as it is the last place where the royal family enjoys complete privacy, several internal sources pointed out. “There is also a large park right across the street,” they added.
The upkeep of the Laeken estate costs the taxpayer 1 million euros per year. King Leopold II stated 120 years ago in the conditions of his donation that the land was to “contribute to public health in a densely populated region”.