King Charles lauds unity on Ukraine war in bilingual Bundestag speech
6:15 pm Thursday, March 30th, 2023
By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN (Reuters) -King Charles hailed the historic ties between Britain and Germany while lauding their current unity in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in an address to the Bundestag on Thursday on his first state trip overseas as monarch.
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 or the European Union but Charles’ visit is part of efforts to reset Britain’s relations after its 2020 departure from the bloc and he said he wanted to “renew” the “special bond” with Germany.
The 74-year-old monarch, 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 which included the chancellor, the president and several former presidents.
“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”.
Charles, 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 invasion 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.
“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.
THE GREEN KING AND THE CLIMATE CHANCELLOR
Charles’ trip has drawn mixed reactions from ordinary Germans, with some questioning the relevance of the British monarchy and others turning up enthusiastically to greet Charles.
“It’s something nice for once, something pleasant in our dark times,” said Berlin pensioner Baerbel, who did not give her last name, after watching him visit a farmer’s market early on Thursday.
Later in the day, Charles viewed a demonstration of amphibious vehicles of a joint German-British military unit, before visiting an organic farm where he donned a white lab coat and got stuck into fitting cheese into moulds.
Throughout his visit, German officials have praised his interest in environmental causes and sustainability that has shone through in the engagements he has chosen to understake.
“I have great respect for his decades-long commitment to the protection of the environment and climate,” tweeted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, designated the “climate chancellor” during his election campaign in 2021, after meeting Charles early on Thursday.
On Wednesday, shortly after arriving in Germany, Charles had met with government officials such as climate envoy and former Greenpeace chief Jennifer Morgan as well as academics and entrepeneurs working on environmental issues at a sustainability forum.
In his speech on Thursday, Charles said he was looking forward to traveling to Hamburg on Friday where he would discuss the northern city’s plans to use hydrogen in its efforts to become a fully sustainable port.
“Our countries are both accelerating the expansion of our hydrogen economies, the fuel which could transform our future,” he said.
Charles had been due to travel first to France but cancelled that part of the tour due to violent social unrest there.
(Reporting by Sarah MarshEditing Matthias Williams and Frances Kerry and Toby Chopra)