King Charles III in the Bundestag: A speech about friendship


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Status: 03/30/2023 5:07 p.m

Not a word about Brexit and the EU. Instead, the British king emphasized the close friendship and ties between the two countries in his speech in the Bundestag. Charles’ political and sometimes very personal words were well received – even by the critics.

By Cosima Gill, ARD Capital Studio

A king who understands German humor and uses it skillfully. He knows that Miss Sophie’s “the same procedure as every year, James” is part of a happy German New Year. “As is customary among good friends, the cordiality of our relationships sometimes allows for a small smile at the expense of others,” said Charles III.

Cosima Gill
ARD Capital Studio

The close friendship between the two countries: That is the central theme of his speech in the Bundestag. A monarch speaks for the first time in front of Parliament – and then mostly in German.

Bilateral relations instead of the EU

The German historian and aristocratic expert Leonhard Horowski listened with interest to the king’s speech. He particularly notices that Charles deliberately did not mention the EU or Brexit. “He has focused on the bilateral relationship, the relationship that can be improved post-Brexit and that is certainly in the interest of the UK government as well.”

Because Charles is also on behalf of the British state. “It is expressly the case that the British monarch’s speeches are pre-read by the British Foreign Office and the Prime Minister,” Horowski said.

Bundestag President Bärbel Bas emphasizes that one thing will also apply after Brexit: “Great Britain and Germany are and will remain close allies and trustworthy partners.” She also expresses her gratitude for the United Kingdom’s “essential and major contribution” to the liberation of Europe from National Socialism and its friendship with Germany after the Second World War.

First visit to Germany at the age of 13

The close ties between the two countries will be discussed again and again during the three-day state visit. Charles recalls that he was in Germany for the first time when he was 13 years old. Yesterday he received a photo of his first visit from Federal President Steinmeier as a gift.

“Charles is even more attached to Germany than his mother, because he descends from the Hohenzollerns, for example, through his father,” emphasizes Horowski. “He is the monarch with the closest family ties to Germany since the First World War.” This is exactly what became clear to the historian when pronouncing difficult German words in his speech.

King Charles III next to a gift from Federal President Steinmeier: a youth photo of Charles’ first visit to Germany, at his father’s side.

Image: AP

Close cooperation in different areas

The king is someone who can build bridges because he understands German culture. Jens Zimmermann, chairman of the German-British Parliamentarian Group, emphasizes this in an interview with Phoenix: “After the speech, everyone stands there and asks a little more: How did Brexit actually happen?” He was surprised at how political parts of the speech had been.

The king praised the German and British “leading role” in supporting Ukraine in the Russian war of aggression and acknowledged the German contribution: “Germany’s decision to provide Ukraine with such great military support is extremely courageous, important and welcome.” Not surprisingly, the king mentions a topic that has been on his mind for years: “to meet the existential challenge of climate change and global warming”.

Renate Künast from the Greens hopes that his presence alone will raise the issue and stresses in advance in an interview with Phoenix: “He’s a bit of a green king.” She has known Charles for years and exchanged ideas with him professionally. Again and again, experts are said to be impressed by how well the king knows his way around.

Even critics applaud

The only rivalry Charles mentions between Germany and Great Britain is in football. He expresses his heartfelt thanks for the German sympathy after the death of his mother and recalls her contribution to the reconciliation of Germany and Great Britain after two world wars.

The king’s speech was well received by the deputies, and at the end there was standing applause from the entire parliament. Even MPs from the Left Party applaud, although there was some criticism of the performance from their ranks. Left leader Martin Schirdewan criticized in advance: “It is not appropriate that the highest democratic body bows to a monarch.”

Also prominent guests in the stands

There was no bowing of the deputies, but the greatest possible attention on the German side. In addition to the presence of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the Presidents of the Bundestag, Bundesrat and the Federal Constitutional Court, there were also prominent guests on the grandstand. From there, the former Federal Presidents Joachim Gauck and Christian Wulff, among others, followed the half-hour speech and the former President of the German Bundestag, Rita Süssmuth.

The state visit is intended to open a new chapter in Anglo-German relations: “The long and special history of our two countries still contains many unwritten chapters. Let us fill them with a tireless pursuit of a better future.” With this appeal, the king ends his appearance in the German Bundestag.

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