April 8, 2011 / 1:28 PM / 6 years ago

Belgian PM to lay down law to errant prince

<p>Belgium's Prince Laurent arrives at a religious service (Te Deum) at the Sint-Gudule cathedral in honour of King's Day in Brussels November 15, 2009. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir</p>

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium’s caretaker Prime Minister Yves Leterme was to tell Prince Laurent Friday to abide by strict new rules or lose his allowance after the errant royal’s conduct angered both the king and the government.

The 47-year-old prince, 12th in line to the throne, made an unauthorized trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo last month, prompting rare criticism from his father.

It has since come to light that the prince also recently met a Libyan diplomat, a meeting Leterme described as “very risky and unwise.”

Leterme was due to meet the prince Friday afternoon to set out new rules on his conduct and to repeat that he would not be allowed to repeat such “unacceptable activities.”

Speaking in parliament Thursday, the prime minister did not say what the new rules were.

A number of lawmakers have called for and end to Laurent’s 300,000 euro ($432,100) annual tax-free royal stipend.

Leterme is due to report back to a parliamentary committee next week about his meeting with Laurent.

The prince has said both the Congo trip and the Libyan meeting related to his work on reforestation and involved no meddling in politics, although President Laurent Kabila greeted him while he was in Congo.

Belgium has strained ties with Congo, which was the personal fiefdom of King Leopold II in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and was ruled over by Belgium until independence in 1960. During the colonial era the country was stripped of mineral wealth and tens of thousands of people died in indentured slavery.

Laurent is no stranger to controversy. His love of fast cars has led to him being caught for speeding more than once and his villa is reported to have been furnished at great expense.

Etienne Davignon, a Belgian viscount, well-known business figure and a friend of the prince, told Belgian television on Thursday that Laurent felt very bad about the commotion.

“On the one hand, he wants to be useful. Other other hand, the rules are not clear on what he can and cannot do,” he said.

Accosted on a trip to Russia, Crown Prince Philip declined to be drawn on his young brother’s behavior.

“My brother is my brother and he will always remain my brother,” he told Belgian broadcasters.

The monarchy in Belgium is not as high profile as it is Britain or other European countries. It is respected more than loved by the people.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Paul Taylor

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