Belgium’s Catholic sovereign is under attack.
“Fabiola is channelling
the annual stipend she receives from the government to the Catholic
Church and relatives of hers.”
The widow of King Baudouin has sparked
controversy in Brussels as mass media and lay parties revealed she has
created a private fund to bequeath part of her fortune to a number of
Catholic charities established by her late husband and to relatives such
as her nieces and nephews.
Television channels, newspapers and anti-monarchy political
representatives have branded the establishment of her new foundation as
ethically flawed as it is claimed it is a means to dodge Belgium’s
extremely high inheritance taxes.
Separatist MPs, the government,
republicans, lay people and constitutionalists have pointed the finger
at the Queen, in protest.
The most serious accusation against her is related to fiscal evasion:
one minister explicitly mentioned her trying to dodge taxes.
have also been raised about the fairness of the Queen’s allowance as she
is able to bequeath part of her fortune to her favourite charities,
avoiding regular tax amounts.
Above all, the monarchy has been
criticised for its denominational neutrality.
In recent days it has been repeatedly stressed that Baudouin had not
wanted to sign the abortion law.
The attack on the monarchy essentially
appears to be a new offensive against the Catholic Church which is
already struggling in Belgium, in light of the paedophile priest
In actual fact, Fabiola set up a “private fund” to help
relatives of hers and various Catholic charities. But the foundation was
financed through the sale of assets and property that were inherited
from Fabiola’s Spanish family.
But the move was still interpreted by many sectors of public opinion
as a way of dodging inheritance tax which in Belgium is as high as 70%.
Since her husband’s death in 1993, Fabiola has received an annual
stipend of 1, 4 million Euros which adds up to 27 million Euros received
over a twenty year period.
Fabiola is the third daughter of Count
Gonzalo Mora Fernandez Fernandez y Riera del Olmo. She married Baudouin
in 1960 and the couple never had any children. After her husband’s
death, the queen moved from the Royal Palace of Laeken to the smaller
and more modest Stuyvenbergh Castle.
The consequences of the controversy
Belgium’s Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo announced that as
of this year, 84-year-old Fabiola’s allowance would be reduced and the
amendment introduced during the presentation of the 2013 Budget, so that
her allowance would not be greater than that of Prince Philippe, son of
King Albert II and heir to the throne.
“This is the first stage in an
accelerated programme of concrete reforms affecting all members of the
royal family,” Di Rupo’s spokesman said.
The foundation’s statute states clearly that the queen’s childless
nephews and nieces can only receive financial aid "for a limited period"
and on condition of facing "serious physical, material, psychological
or moral difficulties."
Fabiola denies allegations that she planned to channel her annual
allowance to relatives and the Catholic Church.”
"I have never had the
intention of depositing funds I received from the public purse with my
foundation," she claimed in an attempt to quell criticisms from
newspapers, public opinion and politicians who accuse her of
establishing a foundation to help her nephews and nieces and Catholic
charities when she dies.
"All the monies that I receive from the civil list go on expenditure
on my household. The lion's share goes on salaries,” Fabiola stressed in
a statement issued by her lawyer. The money for the foundation comes
from private resources, she added, "property and art works that I
carefully kept until today" and that she and her siblings inherited
between the two World Wars from a relative.
None of her Spanish
relatives had ever been beneficiaries of Baudouin's estate, the queen