Charles germany
King Charles III addresses members of the German Bundestag at the Reichstag Building on March 30, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. Image Credit: REUTERS

Berlin: King Charles highlighted the historic ties between Britain and Germany while lauding their current unity in the face of Russia’s attack of Ukraine in a landmark address to the Bundestag on Thursday.

The king, on the second day of a three-day trip to Germany, alternated between German and English for the half-hour speech, which won a standing ovation from lawmakers.

The address made no reference to Brexit but Charles’ visit, his first overseas state trip as monarch, is part of efforts to reset Britain’s relations after its 2020 departure from the European Union.

Charles, who succeeded his mother Queen Elizabeth when she died in September, noted that war had returned to Europe since the last time he spoke in Germany’s lower house of parliament as part of a remembrance ceremony, in 2020.

“Since I last spoke in this building the scourge of war is back in Europe,” he told a packed plenum.

“The world has watched in horror - but we have not stood by.

Even as we abhor the appalling scenes of destruction, we can take heart from our unity - in defence of Ukraine, of peace and freedom.” Both Britain and Germany had shown “vital leadership”, Charles said, praising Berlin’s decision to provide large military support to Ukraine as “remarkably courageous, important and appreciated”.

Britain's King Charles and Berlin's Mayor Franziska Giffey
Britain's King Charles and Berlin's Mayor Franziska Giffey visit the arrival and temporary accommodation centre for Ukrainian refugees at former airport Tegel, in Berlin, Germany, March 30, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

“I can hardly begin to express the pride I feel in the strength of the partnership between our two countries,” he said.

The 74-year-old monarch, who has German ancestry and who has visited Germany in a personal and official capacity more than 40 times, met later with some of the Ukrainians who have taken refuge in Germany since Russia’s February 2022 attack of its neighbour.

He played table football with some of the refugees who are living in temporary accommodation at the former Tegel airport.

In a light moment in his speech, Charles referred to the countries’ regard for each other’s culture such as The Beatles and Kraftwerk - noting German was the first language the works of William Shakespeare were translated into.

Meanwhile, Britons make up the largest visitor group to Berlin in part due to its renowned night life, he told an audience that included the chancellor, president and several former presidents.

“And perhaps most importantly, for the last 50 years we have laughed together - both at each other, and with each other,” he said with a grin, in a speech that itself frequently drew laughter from lawmakers.

Ceremonial welcome

On Wednesday, Charles become the first visiting head of state to receive a ceremonial welcome with military honours at Berlin’s top landmark the Brandenburg Gate, seen as a symbol of division during the Cold War and of reunification thereafter.

Later, at a state banquet at the presidential palace Schloss Bellevue for Charles and Queen Consort Camilla, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the two countries were “opening a new chapter” in relations, exactly six years after Britain began the process of leaving the EU.

Charles had been due to travel first to France but cancelled that part of the tour due to violent social unrest there.

Later on Thursday, Charles was set to view a demonstration of amphibious vehicles of a joint German-British military unit, before visiting an organic farm.

Throughout his visit, German officials have praised his early interest in environmental causes and sustainability.

“I have great respect for his decades-long commitment to the protection of the environment and climate,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted after meeting Charles early on Thursday.