LONDON — LONDON (AP) — King Charles III will travel to France and Germany for his first state visits since becoming monarch, Buckingham Palace said Friday, underscoring Britain’s efforts to build bridges with its European neighbors. after years of strained relations caused by Brexit.
Charles and Camilla, the queen consort, are to visit the European Union’s two largest countries on March 26-31, hosted by Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, the palace announced.
“The visit will celebrate the UK’s relationship with France and Germany, marking our shared histories, culture and values,” the palace said. “It’s also an opportunity to look ahead and show the many ways our countries are working together, whether it’s tackling climate change. response to the conflict in Ukraine; seize trade and investment opportunities or share the best of our arts and culture.”
Underscoring the importance of the trip is the fact that it will be the first state visit by a British monarch since 2015. The late Queen Elizabeth II, Charles’ mother, stopped traveling abroad in her later years.
The announcement came days after Charles met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at Windsor Castle and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced significant progress in talks to resolve the dispute over post-Brexit trade arrangements for the North Ireland.
Sunak will be eager to use the monarchy’s soft power to highlight thawing relations between the UK and the EU, which have been strained since Britain’s decision to leave the bloc.
The trip to France and Germany is taking place at the request of the British government and following invitations from the two governments, the palace said.
The royals will first travel to France, where they will be greeted by Macron and take part in a memorial service at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Charles will later meet with members of the National Assembly and Senate and attend a state banquet at the Chateau de Versailles.
The French leg of the trip will also include a trip to Bordeaux, which is home to a large British community. The royal couple plan to visit an organic vineyard and one of the areas destroyed by the fires last summer.
Charles and Camilla are scheduled to travel to Germany on March 29, where they will be welcomed by Steinmeier and Charles plans to address the Bundestag, the German parliament. Steinmeier will also host a state banquet for the royal couple.
Charles will also meet with Ukrainian refugees in Germany, visit a joint UK-German military unit and travel to Hamburg, where he will visit sustainable energy projects.
While Britain’s royals have ceded most of their powers to the nation’s elected leaders, the aura of the monarchy and the pomp and ceremony of royal visits are still seen as a way to brighten the UK’s image and strengthen ties with nations around the world.
This role epitomized Elizabeth, who made 121 state visits during her 70-year reign, leading royal historian Robert Hardman to call her “Queen of the World”.
When Charles met von der Leyen on Monday, Buckingham Palace was quick to stress that he was working in consultation with the government.
“The King is happy to meet any world leader if he is visiting Britain, and it is the Government’s advice that he does so,” the palace said ahead of the meeting.
The French leg of the trip may hold particular significance for Charles, who is said to have forged a close relationship with Macron over the two men’s shared focus on protecting the environment and fighting climate change.
The German president also expressed mutual respect. In a video message, Steinmeier said he last met Charles at Elizabeth’s funeral and invited him to visit Germany as king. He said Charles’ decision to visit half a year later shows how much the king values the friendship between Germans and Britons.
The German president said Charles’ decision to travel to Germany and France “is also an important European gesture”.
“I would like to say to him, but of course to all British people: We in Germany, we in Europe, want close and friendly relations with the United Kingdom and after Brexit,” Steinmeier said.
In November, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa paid the first state visit to Britain of Charles’ reign. But the visit was in the works before the late queen’s death.
Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.