King Charles visits Germany in first foreign visit as UK monarch

Accompanied by Camilla, the Queen consort, Charles III arrives in Berlin days after planned trip to France was cancelled.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right, and his wife Elke Buedenbender, left, welcome Britain's King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
The UK's King Charles III arrived in Berlin as part of a three-day official visit to Germany [Matthias Schrader/AP]

King Charles III has spoken of the “enduring value” of the relationship between the United Kingdom and Germany during his first state visit abroad since ascending the throne last year.

Charles and Camilla, the Queen consort, received a 21-gun salute after landing at Berlin’s government airport in the early afternoon on Wednesday, as two military jets performed a flyover. The initial leg of the trip to France was delayed.

“I have been struck by the warmth of the friendship between our nations,” Charles said in a speech, delivered partly in German, at a state banquet in the German capital hosted by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Highlighting the “generosity of spirit of the German people”, the British monarch paid tribute to the nation’s hospitality in hosting more than one million Ukrainian refugees.

In his ongoing focus on sustainability, Charles credited German expertise in organic farming as “greatly improving my own farms and soil”.

Britain's King Charles III (L) and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort get off their plane
Charles and Camilla land at Berlin’s government airport [Odd Andersen/ AFP]

Steinmeier and his wife Elke Budenbender met the British royals at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and then accompanied and hosted them at a white-tie dinner at Schloss Bellevue, the German president’s official residence.

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

Charles greeted hundreds of well-wishers lining the historic square and waving German and UK flags, after listening to a rendition of the national anthem and watching as soldiers hoisted up the UK flag on a mast.

Underscoring Charles’s 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 German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock from the Greens party, a 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 said he was grateful that Charles had become involved in these issues early on. “We also benefit from your conviction today, your Majesty,” said Steinmeier.

On Thursday, the king is scheduled to give a speech to the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament. He will also meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz, talk to Ukrainian refugees, and meet UK and German military personnel working on joint projects. In the afternoon, he will visit an organic farm outside Berlin.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right, and his wife Elke Buedenbender, left, welcome Britain's King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife meet the Royals [Matthias Schrader/AP]

Charles, 74, who ascended the throne after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September, is set to be crowned on May 6. He had initially planned to first visit France but the first leg of his trip was cancelled due to the large-scale protests over planned pension changes there.

The visit to EU powerhouses France and Germany was designed to underscore UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s efforts to rebuild relations with the bloc after the UK’s exit as well as their shared history as they combat Russia’s military action in Ukraine.

Sunak hopes goodwill created by a royal visit can help pave the way for progress on other issues post-Brexit, including the UK’s return to an EU programme that funds scientific research across Europe.

Britain's King Charles III (L) greets well-wishers following a welcome ceremony at Brandenburg Gate
The UK’s King Charles III greets well-wishers at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin [Wolfgang Rattay/Pool/AFP]

In Germany, the king faces the first big test of whether he can win hearts and minds abroad, just as his mother did for seven decades, and become an effective conduit for the “soft power” the House of Windsor has traditionally wielded.

The visit will also be an opportunity to highlight the causes he holds dear, like sustainability and the environment.

The royal couple plan to go to Hamburg on Friday, where they will attend a green energy event and visit the Kindertransport memorial for Jewish children who fled from Germany to the UK during the Third Reich, before returning to the UK.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies