The political king: Charles talks up net zero and refugee action in Berlin visit
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LONDON — In his first overseas visit as U.K. monarch, King Charles III is doing little to dispel the notion he’s a political animal at heart.
During a state banquet speech at Schloss Bellevue, the official residence of the German president, Charles talked up politicians’ “vital” efforts to cut carbon emissions, praised Germany’s “extraordinary generosity” in hosting Ukrainian refugees, took a swipe at Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and attempted a patch-up job on U.K.-German relations frayed by Brexit.
Charles had previously vowed to take a restrained approach as king, having earned a reputation as prince of Wales for speaking out on hot-button political issues — and even lobbying British ministers over policies he disagreed with.
His mother, Queen Elizabeth, had famously avoided political topics as monarch, and Charles said last year that his elevation meant it would “no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply.”
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But speaking in Berlin on Wednesday night, Charles — who will address the Bundestag Thursday — noted that both the U.K. and Germany were united by their focus on “promoting global health, net zero and protecting our shared democratic values.” His first official portrait as king, unveiled back home while he was on the trip, also included a subtle nod to his climate activism.
After years of Brexit tension between Germany and the U.K., Charles also vowed to “strengthen the connections” between the two countries.
Addressing the king, Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the vote for Brexit had been “personally … a sad day” for him, and that “plenty of people in Germany felt the same.”
While Charles did not directly address Brexit, he said he was “utterly convinced” the ties between Germany and the U.K. “will grow ever stronger” as the two countries work to “prosper and advance the urgent and vital journey towards net zero.”
During his trip, Charles is also set to meet some of the Ukrainians who have taken refuge in Germany since Russia’s invasion. He said Wednesday night that Germany and the U.K. “stand side by side in protecting and advancing our shared democratic values” and in defending Ukraine from “unprovoked aggression.”
“In this regard, I did want to pay a particular tribute to Germany’s extraordinary hospitality in hosting over one million Ukrainian refugees,” Charles said. “This, it seems to me, so powerfully demonstrates the generosity of spirit of the German people.”