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King Charles lauds German-UK relations in Bundestag speech

March 30, 2023

Britain's King Charles III has addressed the Bundestag on his first trip abroad since becoming monarch. The monarch applauded Berlin for the help it has given Ukraine — and paid tribute to Anglo-German cultural links.

King Charles addresses the German Bundestag
The British king spoke in both German and English, alternating several times between the twoImage: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/picture alliance

King Charles met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin ahead of his speech to Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, on Thursday.

It's the second day of a three-day state visit that marks Charles' first foreign visit since becoming king after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September.

Charles opened his speech in German, alternating with English several times. "My wife and myself are very, very pleased that my first overseas tour as king is an invitation to Germany," he said.

"I'm particularly pleased that I'm able to speak here today to reassert the commitment between our countries on the basis of friendship."

He praised Germany's help for Ukraine in the country's defense against Russia.

King Charles in Germany for first trip abroad

"The decision of Germany, to give such great military support to Ukraine was an exceedingly courageous, important and welcome decision," the king said.

As the largest European donors, he added, both countries had responded and made decisions that might have previously been unimaginable.

The monarch thanked the German people for their "extraordinary kindness" following the death of his mother saying he and his family had been "deeply touched" by the messages written in condolence books across Germany.

King Charles to Bundestag: 'This is democracy in the flesh'

He spoke about cultural connections between the two countries, comparing such cultural phenomena as Bach and Byron with more modern ones like Kraftwerk and The Beatles.

Ahead of the king's speech, German Bundestag President Bärbel Bas welcomed him saying it was a "great honor." 

What's left on Charles' itinerary?

The address to parliament is part of a busy agenda for Charles while visiting the German capital.

Earlier, the monarch signed Berlin's Golden Book — the city's official guestbook for high-profile visitors — and there was a visit to a weekly market in the capital.

The afternoon agenda included a visit to a center for Ukrainian refugees at the city's former Tegel airport together with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Charles also met soldiers from a German-British engineer battalion in Finowfurt, northeast of Berlin, and visited an eco-village to make cheese and discuss organic farming — one of the king's passions.

The royal visit will continue for a final day on Friday with a visit to the northern port city of Hamburg.

At the start of his trip on Wednesday, Charles and his wife Camilla were greeted by Steinmeier and his wife, Elke Büdenbender, at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate with a ceremonial welcome including military honors. The start of his visit was followed by a state dinner in the evening at the German head of state's Bellevue Palace residence.

Steinmeier thanked Charles for choosing Germany as his first foreign trip after becoming the new British king, claiming it to be "an important signal for German-British relations."

The king had been scheduled to visit France first, but that part of the journey was canceled due to the ongoing and widespread protests against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms.

Resistance from Left Party

The fact that Charles was set to address parliament was met with criticism from one member of Germany's socialist Left Party.

"I think it's absurd to let a king speak in the Bundestag. Let's remember: monarchies are basically dictatorships with more historical tinsel," the party's deputy leader, Ates Gürpinar, told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

"To bring a monarch with all honors into the heart of democracy is extremely forgetful of history," Gürpinar added.

Charles is the first British monarch to address German lawmakers, but it is not his first appearance at the Bundestag.

Three years ago, as heir to the throne, he spoke in honor of the victims of the Second World War and Nazism.

Charles, whose family has German roots, speaks German fluently.

rc/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)

British royal couple welcomed with military honors

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