Welcome address to TM King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla in the plenary chamber of the German Bundestag on 30 March 2023
The President of the German Bundestag, Bärbel Bas:
President of the Bundesrat,
President of the Federal Constitutional Court,
Your Majesty, it is a great honour for us
to greet you here at the German Bundestag.
On behalf of the whole house, I welcome you, Her Majesty Queen Consort and your high-level delegation very warmly.
I would also like to greet two former federal presidents in the galleries:
Mr Gauck and Mr Wulff, a warm welcome to you, too.
In addition, I would like to greet four former speakers of Parliament:
Ms Süssmuth, Ms Bergmann-Pohl, Mr Thierse, Mr Lammert, a warm welcome to you, too.
The presence of so many eminent guests underlines the importance of German-British relations.
Your Majesty, on our Day of National Mourning in 2020, you spoke to a small select audience – as the Prince of Wales. Today, you will address the German Bundestag – as King. And as representative of one of the oldest democracies in the world.
Your visit coincides with a very special exhibition at the Bundestag. This exhibition shows the constitutional document adopted by the Frankfurt National Assembly of 1848/49. A key document in German democratic history.
The exhibition includes the story of one chapter in German-British history.
After the forcible dissolution of the National Assembly, the constitutional document was rescued by a courageous member of the Assembly, who took it to Manchester for safe keeping. Thus preserving it for posterity. This is only one brief episode in the long shared history of our two countries.
In the 20th Century, German-British history was one of extremes.
The United Kingdom made a major, indispensable contribution to liberating Europe from National Socialism.
For this, we all are profoundly grateful.
And we will never forget that the United Kingdom provided sanctuary to many of those subject to persecution. In the weeks and months following the November Pogrom in 1938, the British took in thousands of Jewish children. Often, they were the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust. Your Majesty, a monument erected on your initiative at Liverpool Street Station recalls this act of humanity. During my visit to the United Kingdom a few weeks ago, I was able to meet a small number of those rescued. I was extremely moved by this encounter.
I would like to greet Lisa Bechner who is in the galleries. She heads an association which promotes remembrance of the Kindertransport.
- Ms Bechner, I welcome you very warmly.
After the war, the United Kingdom supported the integration of the Federal Republic of Germany into the Western community of states and fostered democracy.
The first foreign guest to speak in the Bundestag was the head of a delegation from the House of Commons. In his speech, Arthur Woodburn advised his German colleagues of the most vital of ingredients for a successful democracy: humour!
Over the years, the United Kingdom became a friend to us Germans and supported reunification. This is also something that we will never forget.
This parliamentary building symbolises our friendship in a special way.
It was a British architect who was responsible for reconstructing the Reichstag.
Norman Foster’s glass dome has become the symbol of the Bundestag.
Lord Foster spoke of it as a beacon signalling the vigour of the democratic process.
Your Majesty, many Germans admire the British culture and lifestyle.
They remember your mother with deep respect. Throughout her life, Queen Elizabeth II worked to promote reconciliation between our two countries. In the year 2000, accompanied by your father, Prince Philip, she also came here to the Bundestag and visited the dome.
The United Kingdom and Germany are – and will remain – close allies and trustful partners. This will not change after the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. The people in our countries are bound together by travel and commerce, cultural and intellectual exchange and often also by mutual fascination. Our parliaments enjoy close ties. Our governments cooperate closely – in many organisations and formats.
Together, the United Kingdom and Germany seek to promote a rules-based international order. We stand together with Ukraine in its battle for freedom and self-determination.
We are united by shared values. And by our interest in resolutely tackling the challenges of our time.
Nowhere is this more urgent than in the existential issue to which you, Sir, have long been committed: the battle to combat climate change and preserve our natural resources.
You emphasised our shared responsibility for the future three years ago, in your speech on the 2020 Day of National Mourning. You said, “Together, we are an indispensable force for good in our world.”
Today, we need this force more than ever.
Your Majesty, I would now like to invite you to take the floor.