LONDON, March 28, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Britain's King Charles III will begin his first state visit when he travels to Germany on Wednesday, having postponed a trip to France due to widespread political protests.
Charles will arrive in Berlin and undertake engagements there and in Brandenburg before heading to Hamburg during the three-day tour.
The decision to visit close neighbours first is widely seen as an attempt to build post-Brexit bridges, with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier calling it "an important European gesture".
"This visit early on underlines the close and heartfelt friendship between our countries and our citizens," he added.
Steinmeier and German first lady Elke Buedenbender will welcome Charles and Queen Consort Camilla with military honours at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, the first time the famous landmark has provided a backdrop for receiving a state guest.
The couples will then travel to Steinmeier's Bellevue Palace in the city centre, where he will host a state banquet for the royals.
The king will on Thursday make a speech in the German federal parliament and meet refugees recently arrived from Ukraine.
Steinmeier and the royal couple will then visit a German-British military unit in the surrounding state of Brandenburg.
The king will move on to the northern port city of Hamburg on Friday, where he is due to tour a renewable energy project.
"It's not a surprise that having become king he hasn't ditched his longstanding interest in environmental issues," said Bob Ward, from the London School of Economics.
"This is an issue that transcends politics and it can't possibly be right that as our head of state he shouldn't speak out on such a major issue," added Ward.
- 'Friendly ties' -
Charles and Steinmeier will lay wreathes in the ruins of the city's St. Nikolai church, which was destroyed during a World War II air raid, and which now stands as a memorial.
The UK monarch will also sign the city's "Golden Book", which he previously signed in 1987 during a visit with then-wife Princess Diana.
The German head of state said he had extended the invitation to Charles, who has visited Germany more than 40 times, at the funeral of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, last September.
"The fact that he is now visiting half a year later shows how much the king values the friendship between our peoples," Steinmeier said.
"I want to tell him, but of course also all Britons: we in Germany, we in Europe, want close and friendly ties with the United Kingdom after Brexit as well," he added.
Charles will be keen to kick off his first state visit as king after his trip to France, which was meant to take place earlier this week, was postponed in the wake of violent pension reform protests.
The visit was intended to highlight warming Franco-British relations, but instead underlined the severity of demonstrations engulfing Britain's neighbour just 10 months into President Emmanuel Macron's second term.
The decision was made "to welcome His Majesty King Charles III in conditions which reflect our friendly relations", Macron's office said.
Macron told reporters that discussions over rescheduling the visit could take place in the coming months.
"We have proposed that at the beginning of the summer, depending on our respective agendas, we can arrange a new state visit," he said.