Dutch uproar prompts King to drop Greek holiday plans hours after arrival
Within hours of the Royal Family’s arrival in Greece for an autumn holiday, King Willem-Alexander responded to the uproar caused by the trip and decided to return to the Netherlands. Parliamentarians, political pundits, reporters on the royalty beat and members of the public responded bitterly when news of the unannounced vacation surfaced, with the country having just entered a partial lockdown on Wednesday night where they were asked to limit their travel to necessary trips only, and to remain home as much as possible.
The King, along with Queen Máxima and reportedly their three school-aged daughters, departed from Schiphol Airport at about 2:05 p.m. on Friday. By 9 p.m., the family released a statement announcing their plans to cut short their trip to the King’s villa in the Peloponnese region.
“We will abandon our vacation. We have seen people’s reactions to media reports. And they are intense, and they have affected us,” the King and Queen said. “We do not want to create any uncertainty about it: In order to get the Covid-19 virus under control, it is necessary that the guidelines are followed. The discussion around our holiday does not contribute to that.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte did know in advance about the King’s vacation plans, a spokesperson working for government communication office RVD told newswire ANP late Friday night. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, who has a dual role serving as the Deputy PM, said during a Friday press conference that he was unaware the King and his family had left for Greece on the government-owned passenger jet.
The director of the RVD, who was also at the press conference, said on Friday he did not know of the King’s whereabouts. De Jonge was answering questions from the media after the weekly meeting of Cabinet ministers while Rutte was representing the Netherlands at the European Council summit in Brussels.
With the King under the responsibility of the Ministry of General Affairs, led by Rutte, Members of Parliament said they want to know why the Prime Minister and his Deputy did not advise the King to cancel his plans. “It is good that the King is aware of all the Dutch people who are making an effort to conquer coronavirus together,” said D66 MP Joost Sneller.
“It would have been better if the Prime Minister had saved the King from this.” Sneller’s party is part of the governing coalition led by Rutte.
The sentiment was echoed by opposition parties, too, including the Labour Party, the SP, and GroenLinks. Jesse Klaver, who leads the latter, said the decision to fly off to Greece was “an error in judgment,” and abandoning the trip was the “only correct decision.”
Officially, the region of Greece where the family’s villa is located is under a mild Code Yellow travel warning from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meaning people from the Netherlands are not advised by the alert to avoid unnecessary travel. However, the coronavirus road map released by the government this week made it clear that considering the severity of the situation in the Netherlands, all unnecessary travel plans should be scrapped.