- The visit comes as the UK seeks to improve relations with Europe
- Sustainability is a major focus of the trip
- A visit to France was canceled due to the protests there
LONDON/BERLIN (Reuters) – King Charles set off for Germany on Wednesday for his first state visit abroad since becoming Britain’s monarch, part of efforts to turn the page on years of strained relations between Britain and the European Union after a crisis. Exit the block.
Charles, who succeeded his mother Queen Elizabeth as British monarch in September, was due to travel to France first, but canceled that part of the tour due to violent social unrest over President Emmanuel Macron’s new pension law.
During his three-day visit to the German capital Berlin, the eastern state of Brandenburg and the northern port city of Hamburg, Charles will address issues facing both countries such as sustainability and the Ukraine crisis, as well as memorializing the past, according to Buckingham Palace. .
The pilot said before takeoff on Wednesday that his plane would escort him to Berlin by planes as a sign of respect.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will welcome Charles and his wife, Queen Camilla, with military honors at Berlin’s most famous landmark, the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of the country’s division during the Cold War and subsequent reunification.
It will be the first ceremonial welcome held there for a visiting head of state.
Steinmeier, who is preparing a state banquet Thursday at the presidential palace Schloss Bellevue for the royal couple, said it was an important “European gesture” that Charles chose France and Germany for his first state visit, even before his coronation in May. .
“For him and for all Britons, of course, I would like to say that we in Germany, in Europe, wish for close and friendly relations with the United Kingdom even after Brexit,” he said in a video message before the trip.
Underlining Charles’s interest in environmental issues, one of his first engagements in Berlin will be a forum on sustainability where he will meet Germany’s foreign and economic ministers who belong to the Green Party, the country’s junior partner in the tripartite coalition.
There he will also meet business leaders, academics and civil society representatives to discuss matters from hydrogen and renewables to industrial decarbonisation, according to Buckingham Palace.
Reset after Brexit?
Charles will address Germany’s lower house, the Bundestag – to which he last addressed in 2020 as Prince of Wales – on Thursday in Berlin, meeting some of the one million Ukrainians who have sought refuge from the war in Germany.
Later in the day, he will meet representatives from a joint German-British military unit to display their amphibious bridge-building vehicles in Brandenburg.
On Friday he is due to visit a church in Hamburg destroyed by Allied bombing in World War Two, and meet representatives of companies deploying green technology in the port.
Steinmeier said he had invited Charles, who has been to Germany more than 40 times, to his mother’s funeral last September. However, the final decisions on such state visits are made by the British government, which forms part of its use of “soft power” for the monarchy.
As such, the trip was a clear sign of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s endeavors to restore relations with Europe, said Anand Menon, director of the UK’s Academic Research Center in a Changing Europe.
However, any warmer relations with Europe resulting from the visit could cool down quickly if other post-Brexit problems flare up. These include if efforts fail to re-admit Britain to Horizon, the EU’s main funding program for research and innovation, with a budget of €95.5 billion.
Queen Elizabeth had urged Europe to guard against division on the continent during her fifth and final visit to Germany in 2015, at a time when Britain was seeking to renegotiate its position in the European Union.
Macron suggested that Charles’ visit to France might be postponed to the summer.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Phil Noble); Additional reporting by William James and Michael Holden. Editing by Bernadette Baum
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