(Berlin) Charles III lamented the return of the “scourge” of war to Europe on Thursday by referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in a historic speech to German MPs, even though the allies can “draw courage from their unit “.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has caused “so much unimaginable pain to so many innocent people”, said the British monarch, the first monarch to speak inside the Bundestag.
It poses a “threat” to Europe’s security and “our democratic values,” he added in the roughly half-hour speech, held mostly in German and ending with a standing ovation.
The king praised in particular the deliveries of heavy weapons to Ukraine by Germany, a country deeply pacifist since the horrors of Nazism and which has long hesitated to take this step.
This speech was one of the highlights of Charles III’s three-day visit, accompanied by Queen Consort Camilla on his first trip abroad as king.
His arrival is placed under the sign of the ties of friendship between the two countries and constitutes an important European gesture after the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
In the wake of his speech in the Bundestag, he traveled to the former Tegel airport, in the west of the capital, to meet Ukrainian refugees who are temporarily housed there.
Previously, he spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and then the capital’s mayor, Franziska Giffey.
The royal couple also took the time to enjoy a walkabout in a Berlin market with its many organic food stalls.
They shook many hands again, handing out “wie geht’s?” or “how are you?” around (How are you?), cheerfully exchanging a few words with shopkeepers or the public, stopping to buy honey or cheese.
Later that day, the king was to speak with a German-British battalion and move to an “ecovillage” at Brodowin, some 60 km from Berlin.
The stay largely bears the imprint of the theme of ecology, which Charles, 74, has championed across the Channel for years.
This is not the first time that Charles has found himself at the pulpit of the German lower house.
He had already spoken there in November 2020, in front of a sparse audience due to the distancing measures linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. But at the time, he was still only crown prince.
He had addressed German lawmakers on Remembrance Day, in a highly symbolic gesture marking the post-war reconciliation between the two countries.
His intervention Thursday in parliament was not unanimous. “I find it absurd to let a king speak in the Bundestag,” criticized the deputy chairman of the small radical left opposition party Die Linke, Ates Gürpinar, in the regional newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine.
On Wednesday, Charles and Camilla were greeted at the Brandenburg Gate by hundreds of Germans transfixed at the thought of seeing the royal couple.
The famous Unter den Linden avenue was adorned with the British flag, surrounded by German and European flags.
German Head of State Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday hailed the British ruler’s visit as an “important sign of the German-British relationship”, saying the two countries were opening “a new chapter”.
He recalled that this visit came six years after the date on which the United Kingdom had started its process of leaving the European Union.
On Friday, Charles III will travel to the port city of Hamburg. He will visit a renewable energy project there on the last day of his trip.