Germany

Speech by His Majesty King Charles III to the German Bundestag

His Majesty King Charles III spoke to German parliamentarians during his 2023 state visit to Germany, the first state visit abroad for the King and Queen Consort

March 30th, 2023
Editorial, News from Berlin
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His Majesty King Charles III spoke to German parliamentarians during his 2023 state visit to Germany, the first state visit abroad for the King and Queen Consort.

[With kind permission from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and His Majesty King Charles III. Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered. The speech was delivered partly in German and partly in English.]

[Delivered in German:]

Mr President, President of the Bundestag, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be here today. It means a great deal to both my wife and myself that we have been invited to Germany on my first overseas tour as Sovereign, and it is a particular honour to be here with you where I wish to renew the pledge of friendship between our nations. There could be few better places to do so than in this building which, in its very stones, tells the history of the twentieth century. It is, in itself, a demonstration of what binds our two countries. Burnt in 1933, severely damaged in 1945, in the 1990s it was rebuilt by a British architect to be the Parliament of a re-united democratic Germany; its iconic glass dome a symbol of the transparency and accountability of parliament, from which the citizens, looking down, can literally oversee their politicians at work. Democracy in action!

My wife and I last had the honour of joining you in this chamber in November 2020, on the occasion of Volkstrauertag. Seventy-five years after the Second World War, it was of great importance to me to stand with Germans in honouring all victims of war and tyranny, and to be the first members of my family to participate in those deeply moving commemorations.

That you invited us to join you on that occasion showed how far the United Kingdom and Germany had travelled together in friendship and in peace – just as was demonstrated so powerfully 2 years before, by your presence in London, Mr President, for the centenary of the end of the First World War.

[Delivered in English:]

Today, it gives me particular pride to be with you once again, now as King, and to renew the special bond of friendship between our countries.

This friendship meant so much to my beloved Mother, The late Queen, who often spoke of the 15 official visits she made to Germany, including her 5 state visits.

The first of those, in 1965, came when our continent was still deeply scarred by war, and the trauma of conflict. Hers was the wartime generation, and like my father, The Queen had served in uniform. That my parents’ 11-day tour of Germany should prove to be a pivotal moment in the reconciliation between our nations was, therefore, a matter of great personal significance to them both.

[Delivered in German:]

My Mother understood the immense achievement that reconciliation represented, and in returning to Germany time and again, she was determined to play her own part. It is, perhaps, for this reason that Her late Majesty won a particular place in the affection of the German people.

My family and I were so deeply touched by the reaction in Germany to my Mother’s death. The tributes offered in this chamber, the Union Flag projected onto the Brandenburg Gate, and the thousands of messages in condolence books across the country, offered a tremendous comfort in our time of grief. On behalf of my entire family, I can only offer our heartfelt thanks for the extraordinary kindness that the people of Germany showed to us.

Mr President, President of the Bundestag, since I last spoke in this building the scourge of war is back in Europe. The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has inflicted the most unimaginable suffering on so many innocent people. Countless lives have been destroyed; freedom and human dignity have been trampled in the most brutal way. The security of Europe has been threatened, together with our democratic values.

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.

Germany and the United Kingdom have shown vital leadership. As Europe’s 2 largest donors to Ukraine, we have responded with taking decisions which might previously have seemed unimaginable. Germany’s decision to send such significant military support to Ukraine is remarkably courageous, important and appreciated.

Today, our pilots are flying side-by-side on joint operations over our Baltic allies. Here, in Germany, our armies have established a joint Amphibious Engineer Battalion, which I will visit later today. Germany is the only nation in the world with which the United Kingdom has such a joint unit, an extraordinary testament to the partnership we enjoy.

[Delivered in English:]

Ladies and Gentlemen, I can hardly begin to express the pride I feel in the strength of the partnership between our 2 countries. Germany, her people and distinctive culture have made such a profound impact on me over so many of my previous visits. Since I first came to Germany when I was just 13 years old, I have grown to become familiar with the different corners of this remarkable land.

Like many British people, I have close personal ties here – in my case, cherished family relationships and associations that go back generations. For all of us, however, there are countless points of connection and common experience in the British-German story, which has unfolded over nearly 2 millennia.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the renowned Hanseatic League traded goods from Lübeck and Hamburg to ports up and down the English coast, establishing a trading partnership which underpins our shared prosperity to this day.

Where goods travelled, ideas travelled too. Our people came to be inspired by each other’s example.

[Delivered in German:]

We developed a profound admiration of one another’s literature and music, and it is not surprising, therefore, that German was the first language into which Shakespeare was translated. The first Shakespeare Association in the world was established in 1864 – not in England, but in Weimar.

In just a few weeks’ time, the astonishing music of Georg Friedrich Handel – who was born a German, and died British – will once again soar through Westminster Abbey at the Coronation, just as it has at every Coronation since that of my 7 times great grandfather, King George II, in 1727.

[Delivered in English:]

Throughout the centuries, people have travelled back and forth between our lands. In the 19th century, many Britons fell in love with Germany whilst on the ‘Grand Tour’. William Turner’s mesmerising paintings of the Rhine sparked in his countrymen the ambition to see those landscapes for themselves – a demand later met by Thomas Cook, the pioneer of tourism, who would organise his first foreign trip along the Rhine, with stops at Cologne, Frankfurt, Heidelberg and Baden-Baden.

Today millions of Britons visit Germany each year, just as millions of Germans travel to our shores. Britons come to admire Berlin’s vibrant culture and nightlife, making up Europe’s largest visitor group to this wonderful city. So we are still admiring of each other’s culture; dependent upon each other’s economies; and inspired by each other’s ideas. More recent generations may think as readily of The Beatles or Kraftwerk, as they do of Brahms or Byron, but the web of cultural connections is as strong as ever.

And perhaps most importantly, for the last 50 years we have laughed together – both at each other, and with each other. And while Miss Sophie’s “The same procedure as every year, James?” does not – I hope – give a very accurate impression of modern Britain, it is, I know, an integral part of a German Happy New Year. In Britain, Germany’s comedy ambassador Henning Wehn has given us an understanding of German quirks, as Monty Python brought our own here. Like all old friends at moments, the warmth of our relationship allows a small smile at each other’s expense.

[Delivered in German:]

In some areas there are rivalries, of course, and I think especially of our encounters on the football pitch.

Against this backdrop, it was particularly special last year that the England women’s football team – the Lionesses – could win the Euros against Germany last year. Beyond their sporting success, both teams have promoted gender equality in such an impressive way. In so doing, they inspired a generation – in Britain, Germany and far beyond.

[Delivered in English:]

This is just one example of how our countries, together, can offer a compelling example to the world. There are, I am delighted to say, very many more. Faced with so many shared challenges, the United Kingdom and Germany are together providing leadership to secure our shared future.

Today, the United Kingdom and Germany are Europe’s 2 largest producers of power from offshore wind. Many German firms are involved in the production and erection of turbines off the British coast. The North Sea, across which our people have travelled and traded for generations, is soon to be the site of a new interconnector allowing us directly to trade electricity.

Our countries are both accelerating the expansion of our hydrogen economies, the fuel which could transform our future and I am looking forward to seeing Hamburg’s plans to use hydrogen in its efforts to become a fully sustainable port.

These innovations are vital in combatting the existential challenge of climate change and global warming which confronts us all, and as such I was delighted to meet participants of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue yesterday to hear how countries are accelerating this transition.

[Delivered in German:]

For a long time, British and German scientific research has been leading the way. Our countries rank in the top 2 in Europe for founding successful new technology start-ups. Our universities and research institutions collaborate more often with each other than any other two countries in Europe.

This helps to explain why a Berlin-based company has pioneered in London the use of lampposts for electric vehicle charging points, while in Berlin you can book a ride in a fully electric, London-style taxi.

Internationally, too, we are working closely together. We helped initiate the Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa at the climate conference in Glasgow. A further such partnership with Indonesia was the result of much work during Germany’s G7 Presidency.

[Delivered in English:]

Mr President, President of the Bundestag, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This essential partnership between our 2 countries is built of the expertise, dedication and ingenuity of countless people in both Germany and the United Kingdom. To them all, I can only offer my sincere and heartfelt gratitude.

Tomorrow, we will once again stand with the people of Germany in solemn remembrance. In Hamburg, I will pay my respects at the memorial to the Kindertransporte, which, 85 years ago, saved the lives of more than 10,000 Jewish children from Nazism, and gave them safe passage to new lives in Britain. I will also join you, Mr President, and you, First Mayor Tschentscher, in remembering those who perished in the Allied bombing of Hamburg in 1943.

[Delivered in German:]

Heeding the lessons of the past is our sacred responsibility, but it can only be fully discharged through a commitment to our shared future. Together we must be vigilant against threats to our values and freedoms, and resolute in our determination to confront them. Together we must strive for the security, prosperity and wellbeing that our people deserve.

In the long and remarkable story of our 2 countries, there are many chapters yet unwritten. Let us fill these with the restless pursuit of a better tomorrow. The legacy of our past, and the great promise of our future, demand nothing less. Thank you for your attention.

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