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Ex Belgian king says 923,000 euros not enough to live on

Before abdicating the throne, Albert II enjoyed a tax-free allowance of 11.5 million euros ($15 million) to pay for the upkeep of the royal household.

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(Mark Renders/AFP/Getty Images)

Albert II, the Belgian king who abdicated in July, believes his yearly state allowance of 923,000 euros is too little to live on and wants an increase, press reports said Thursday.

"He says he has not been treated as he had hoped and that he now finds himself in difficulty," one unnamed source told Le Soir daily.

Up until his abdication after 20 years as king, Albert enjoyed a tax-free allowance of 11.5 million euros ($15 million) to pay for the upkeep of the royal household.

But on stepping down in favor of his son Philippe, the popular monarch got 923,000 euros before tax -- or 700,000 euros net. Though also provided a team of 10 aides, he is "complaining bitterly about the annual payment," said Le Soir's court correspondent.

Certain "associates", worried by his "poor morale and recriminations," are trying "to find a solution to increase his income indirectly," the daily said.

Several options are being considered -- the government might pay the costs of his official residence or the navy take over the running of his luxury yacht, said to be worth 4.6 million euros.

Other unnamed sources cited by Le Soir said Albert II has even taken his gripes directly to the government, including Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who he had singled out for praise at the time of his abdication.

But so far there are no signs of progress given the country's tight budget position, it said.

The monarchy is a key symbol of unity in a Belgium sharply divided between its Flemish north and French-speaking south but it is not immune to controversy or criticism, especially over its cost.

In June, the government agreed the royal household would have pay taxes after an outcry over former Queen Fabiola's decision to set up a private foundation at the age of 84 for her nephews and Catholic charities.

The move was widely criticized as a way of avoiding 70 percent death duties on her estate even though Fabiola receives a state allowance -- which had been cut earlier in the year from 1.4 million euros to 923,000 euros.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131107/ex-belgian-king-says-923000-euros-not-enough-live