King Charles III speaks to the German Bundestag, meets Scholz

BERLIN (AP) — King Charles III. was the first monarch to address the German Bundestag on Thursday as part of a high-profile visit aimed at strengthening ties between the two European powers.

Charles, 74, is on his first trip abroad since becoming Britain’s king. He and Camilla, the Queen consort, arrived in Berlin on Wednesday. Crowds of well-wishers and Germany’s head of state, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, greeted the couple at the capital’s famous Brandenburg Gate. They later attended a banquet in her honor at the Presidential Palace.

Pomp and royal splendor aside, the three-day visit has a decidedly political purpose. The British government is trying to mend the torn relations with its continental partners after the painful Brexit process.

The consequences have been significant: Britain’s exit from the European Union’s common market has led to trade barriers and labor shortages, and excluded the country from key European science programs. By paying special attention to the EU’s two biggest powers – France and Germany – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hopes to normalize relations with the bloc of 27 nations.

Charles originally intended to stop in France first, but anti-government protests there delayed this part of his journey. The focus was thus on Germany, where the British royal family and in particular the late Queen Elizabeth II have long enjoyed curiosity and admiration.

But not everyone was enthusiastic about the visit. Jan Korte, an MP for the opposition party Die Linke, said it was not in line with Germany’s democratic tradition for Charles to address the country’s highest political body, the Bundestag.

“A king is not elected,” Korte told the public broadcaster ZDF. “Of course he can speak anywhere and is very welcome, including me, but especially in the Bundestag, where it’s about the representation of the people, I don’t really think it’s appropriate to let a monarch speak.”

Charles has spoken before the Bundestag, at a commemoration event organized by the German War Graves Commission in 2020, although he was still the Prince of Wales at the time.

Before his speech, Charles met briefly with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and visited a farmers’ market in Berlin.

After his speech, Charles and Camilla are scheduled to meet with refugees and British and German military personnel stationed near Berlin before visiting an organic farm. They want to be in Hamburg on Friday.

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