BERLIN — King Charles III hailed Germany’s “courageous” move to give military support to Ukraine as he talked up British-German ties in a historic address to the Bundestag Thursday.
Charles, on his first overseas trip as U.K. monarch, told assembled lawmakers that Germany and the U.K. had “taken an important leadership role” in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
And he said Berlin had “responded decisively and taken decisions that would have been easily unimaginable in the past,” in a likely nod to the country’s Zeitenwende, or major U-turn, on its post-World War II defense policy.
“Germany’s decision to provide military support to Ukraine … is exceedingly courageous, important and welcome,” he said, in a speech that mixed German and English.
Charles’ visit is being seen as part of a wider reset of British foreign policy post Brexit.
Addressing the monarch, Bärbel Bas, president of the Bundestag, said the two countries “are and will remain close allies and trusting partners” even after Britain’s EU departure, stressing that they remain connected by “mutual fascination” as well as travel and trade ties and both “stand together for a rules-based order” after the Ukraine invasion.
Charles also used his address to return to a pet theme — climate change. While he stuck to generalities, his comments come amid intense debate in Germany, home to major automakers, over the shift away from fossil fuels.
“Today, the United Kingdom and Germany are Europe’s two largest producers of power from offshore wind … Our countries are both accelerating the expansion of our hydrogen economies, the fuel which could transform our future,” the king said.
“These innovations are vital in combating the existential challenge of climate change and global warming which confronts us all,” he added.
Charles received a standing ovation from all sides as his address wrapped up — but not everyone was happy to see an unelected monarch wax lyrical.
Martin Schirdewan, co-leader of the German Left Party, criticized the speech ahead of time.
“It is not appropriate for the highest democratic body to bow before a monarch,” Schirdewan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. “I also find it strange that in times of inflation and rapidly rising poverty, the Bundestag allows itself to be written into the pedigree of someone who was literally born with a golden spoon in his mouth.”
Schirdewan’s deputy Ates Gürpinar’s criticism was even harsher.
“To have a king speak in the Bundestag, I think is absurd. … [as] monarchies are basically dictatorships with more historical tinsel,” Gürpinar told Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. Gürpinar announced he would swerve the speech.
Matt Honeycombe-Foster contributed reporting.