Security upgrade to Royal Family's country retreat nears €700,000

Security upgrade to Royal Family's country retreat nears €700,000
The Ciergnon castle is the latest royal property to be outfitted with new security installations, after the constant physical patrolling of royal domains sparked criticism among lawmakers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

One of the Royal Family's holiday retreats in the Walloon countryside is the latest royal property to be outfitted with a brand new security system in recent years, with the bill for the renovations nearing €700,000.

Works were carried out in the Château de Ciergnon in order to upgrade it with a mint security system capable of ensuring the royal family's safety, Justice Minister Koen Geens said.

Questioned in parliament over a string of works recently carried out on different royal properties, Geens said the works were an investment "necessary to ensure the permanent physical protection of the head of state."

The costs of works to the Ciergnon castle, located near the small Walloon municipality of Houyet, added up to €690,007 last year, Geens said, according to HLN.

The renovations followed criticism by lawmakers that the royal country retreat had to be guarded by officers around the clock due to King Albert's occasional presence in the grounds to snap nature photography, according to the outlet.

In addition to those works, the Belvédère castle —the private residence of King Albert and Queen Paola— as well as the palaces of Brussels and Laeken have also been outfitted with electronic security installations over the last two years.

The cost of the renovations totalled €84,336 in 2017 and an additional €105,580 last year, according to the figures presented by Geens after being questioned by Vlaams Belang MP Wouter Vermeersch.

The renovations on all properties, Geens said, will mean an "integrated security installation" will now make it possible for all domains to be monitored by police from a single location.

Both the Belvédère and the Ciergnon castle belong to the Royal Trust of Belgium, a collection of lands and holdings donated to the state by King Leopold II on several conditions, including that they remain at the disposal of the Belgian royal family.

Over two dozen castles, parks, villas, golf courses and other land and properties make up the Royal Trust, out of which just under a dozen are reserved for the exclusive use of the royal family.

The trust is managed independently and financed through the leasing of property for activities ranging for farming and fishing to education as well as the granting of hunting rights on its properties, according to the federal ministry of finances.

The trust also rents out some of its properties and land, such as golf courses or a hippodrome, to individuals or institutions for events, and it has granted public access to a number of them, including Parc Duden in Brussels.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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