Norway's King Harald to scale back official duties


King HaraldImage source, Getty Images

Norway’s king plans to scale back his participation in official duties “out of consideration for his age”, the country’s royal household has said.

Officials said the move would see King Harald, 88, make a “permanent reduction” to his public engagements.

Harald is Europe’s longest reigning monarch, serving since 1991.

But he has battled illness in recent years and was admitted to hospital in Malaysia in February after falling sick while on holiday.

He was treated for an infection he contracted while staying on the resort island of Langkawi. He was later fitted with a pacemaker to compensate for a low heartrate.

Harald has not been seen in public since his hospitalisation. His son, Crown Prince Haakon, has carried out the king’s duties in his absence.

In a statement on Monday, the royal household said “practical arrangements will also be made in the conduct of his official activity”, but offered no further details on what the arrangements would be.

Monday’s announcement comes just days after Harald formally resumed his constitutional duties, having taken two months of sick leave after being released from hospital. His official diary listed three separate meetings, including a summit with the head of the country’s armed forces.

Last year, the king carried out 431 public engagements, according to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). They included chairing cabinet 35 times and holding 110 audiences with leaders such as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Crown Price Haakon has been filling in for King Harald

Despite his advancing age and ill-health, King Harald has openly ruled out abdicating. In January, he told reporters that he had taken an oath that “lasts for life”.

“It’s that simple for me,” he added. “We’re at it until the bitter end.”

Despite his health issues, polling suggests that the king remains extremely popular with Norwegians.

A survey for NRK earlier this year showed that 64% of the population did not want him to abdicate in favour of his son, while some 72% of Norwegians remained supportive of the monarchy.

Harald has been known to hold progressive views throughout his time on the throne.

In 2016, he made an impassioned speech in support of LGBT equality and refugees, paying tribute to his fellow citizens from “Afghanistan, Pakistan and Poland, from Sweden, Somalia, and Syria,” and saying that Norwegians “are girls who love girls, boys who love boys, and girls and boys who love each other”.

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