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King Charles III and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier walk after planting a tree following a Green Energy reception at Bellevue Palace, Berlin, the official residence of the President of Germany, during his State Visit to Germany, Wednesday March 29, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Berlin: King Charles was greeted with military honours at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Wednesday as he began his first state visit abroad since becoming the British monarch, part of efforts to re-set relations with Europe post-Brexit.

Charles, who succeeded his mother Queen Elizabeth as monarch in September, had been due to travel first to France, but cancelled that part of the tour due to violent social unrest over President Emmanuel Macron's new pension law.

The fact that Charles had picked France and Germany for his first state visit, even before his coronation in May, was an important "European gesture", said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who greeted Charles and his wife Queen Consort Camilla in Berlin.

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King Charles III and Camilla Queen Consort sign the Golden Book as they visit Schloss Bellevue and attend meeting with Federal President Steinmeier, Berlin, Germany, Mar 29, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

"Today, exactly six years after Britain started its exit from the European Union, we are opening a new chapter in our relations," Steinmeier said.

Over a three-day visit to Berlin, Brandenburg in the east and the northern port city of Hamburg, Charles will attend engagements reflecting issues facing both countries, such as sustainability and the Ukraine crisis, and will also commemorate the past, according to Buckingham Palace.

As a mark of respect, fighter jets escorted Charles' plane into Berlin, where he became the first visiting head of state to be given a ceremonial welcome at the capital's most famous landmark, the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of the country's division during the Cold War and subsequent reunification.

Underscoring Charles' interest in environmental causes, one of his first engagements in Berlin was a forum on sustainability, addressing matters from hydrogen and renewables to industrial decarbonisation, according to Buckingham Palace.

There, he met Germany's foreign and economy ministers who are both from the Greens party, junior partner in the country's three-way coalition, as well as business leaders, academics and civil society representatives.

"Today, we friends and partners, we are looking forwards - and that's why we are starting this state visit very consciously with a topic that is decisive for our future on this planet," said Steinmeier.

He noted he was "grateful" Charles had gotten involved in these issues early on.

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Thirty-nine year old Ewa from Berlin holds a Union Jack flag with a picture of late Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and flowers before the welcome ceremony for Britain's King Charles in Berlin, Germany, March 29, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

"We also benefit from your conviction today, your Majesty", said Steinmeier, who will hold a state banquet at the presidential palace Schloss Bellevue for the royal couple later in the day.

Post-Brexit reset?

Charles will address the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, on Thursday in Berlin, and meet some of the one million Ukrainians who have taken refuge from war in Germany.

Later in the day, he will meet representatives from a joint German-British military unit for a demonstration of their bridge-building amphibious vehicles in Brandenburg.

Steinmeier said he had invited Charles to visit Germany at Elizabeth's funeral last September. The British government makes the ultimate decisions on such state visits, which form part of its use of the monarchy's 'soft power'.

As such, the trip was a clear sign of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's push to reset relations with Europe, said Anand Menon, director of academic think tank UK in a Changing Europe.

However, any warmer relations with Europe brought about by the visit could cool if other post-Brexit issues flare up.

Britain has slumped from Germany's fifth most important trading partner to 11th in 2022, behind the Czech Republic.