“Exzellenzen, meine Damen und Herren,
es ist mir eine große Freude, wenn ich das sagen darf, heute Abend hier zu sein, um im Besonderen mit so vielen Gästen den Geburtstag Ihrer Majestät der Königin zu feiern. Sie hat mich gebeten, Ihnen ihre herzlichsten Grüße zu übermitteln. Es ist auch wirklich ein besonderes Vergnügen, wieder einmal in Berlin zu sein – besonders als Großvater eines neugeborenen Enkels.
[Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is, if I may say so, a great pleasure to be here with so many of you this evening – above all, to celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty The Queen, who has asked me to convey her warmest greetings to you all. Of course, it is also a particular pleasure to be back in Berlin once again – especially as the grandfather of a brand new grandson!]
Returning to Berlin, I have been reminded that there is no place I know where history feels more present, or more relevant. To be in Berlin is to remember just how much this country, and indeed, this continent, have endured during our lifetimes, and those of our parents and grandparents.
When I first came here in 1972 this was a city divided – a symbol of a continent that had been torn apart by war and left with the ugliest of scars which, it seemed then, might never heal, and might never fade. It was also a symbol of freedom and western co-operation against Soviet aggression.These past decades have seen extraordinary change across Europe and, today, Berlin is a proud statement of just how far we have come and of the enduring hope of past, present and future generations. Berlin is not only your capital today, but our longstanding and common cause. It offers a powerful reminder that we must take nothing for granted, and of how today, as for centuries, the fortunes of all of us who share thissmall continent are so tightly interwoven by the myriad connections between us.
For some of us, of course, these connections are particularly personal. For me there are so many family connections and associations with Germany, as indeed with so many parts of Europe, going back for generations. This year, for instance, we celebrate the bicentenaries of my Great, Great, Great Grandparents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were both born in 1819 – an anniversary that is being marked with exhibitions, concerts and youth exchanges, and by partnerships between the city of Coburg and British Institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Choral Society and English Heritage.
Prinz Albert von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha was the most remarkable man who, in his all-too-short life, had such far-reaching influence on the arts, science, trade and industry in Britain. To my family, he brought not just familial ties to what is now Germany, which we still cherish, but an affinity with German culture, and tradition, and a wish to share it across national borders. His tireless work remains important to us until this day; he helped to champion the rights of working people and the abolition of child labour in Britain; and, indeed, it is to him that we owe the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree in our homes.
In embodying these ties, my family is hardly unique. The people of Britain have enjoyed the most profound connections with the people of Germany, and indeed the wider European continent, for thousands of years. We have long been fascinated by each other: admiring of each other’s literature and music; inspired by each other’s ideas; and dependent upon each other’s economies for the trade that enhances our shared prosperity.
For all the bitter conflict that so tragically dominated the last century, time and again the people of our two countries have shown solidarity to one another. For example, eighty years ago when, in 1938 and 1939, thousands of Jewish children travelled to the U.K. as part of the Kindertransporteto escape the Nazis and start new lives in Britain. Or seventy years ago this year, when the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft(the German-British Association) was founded as a driver of British-German exchange and discussion which has thrived ever since; or when, also in 1949, the Berlin Airlift – the brainchild of British Air Commodore Rex Waite – saw British aircraft fly 175,000 sorties, over 30 million miles, to deliver nearly half of all the food that was flown in to Berlin during that extraordinary humanitarian operation.
Heute sind wir viel mehr als nur Nachbarn: wir sind Freunde und natürliche Partner, verbunden durch gemeinsame Erfahrungen, gemeinsame Interessen und gemeinsame Werte, und tief in unsere beiderseitige Zukunft eingebunden.
Alljährlich reisen zwei Millionen Briten nach Deutschland und drei Millionen Deutsche in das Vereinigte Königreich. Über zweihunderttausend Bürgerinnen und Bürger leben im jeweils anderen Land.
[Today, we are so much more than simply neighbours: we are friends and natural partners, bound together by our common experience, mutual interests and shared values, and deeply invested in each other’s futures.
Every year, two million British people visit Germany and three million Germans visit the U.K. Over two hundred thousand of our citizens live in each other’s countries.]
Our universities enjoy the closest of research collaborations and tens of thousands of our young people choose to travel between our countries to study in our world class universities. Our economies are so vitally interconnected, with mutual trade between our countries worth 150 billion euros a year. Indeed, this year the British Chamber of Commerce in Germany celebrates its centenary, which is a symbol of the enduring nature of the economic relationship between us.
On the world stage Britain and Germany work together to uphold the rules-based international order. We are both committed to the Paris Climate agreement, and are leading global efforts to reduce emissions. Indeed, this particular aspect of our shared approach to global issues couldn’t be more important, particularly as it becomes ever clearer that the impacts of climate change are happening faster and are more catastrophic than we had anticipated. Ladies and Gentlemen, if I may, it seems to me at least, that we would be wise to redouble our efforts in this regard, particularly in respect to the opportunities that will arise next year with the recalibration, and I hope strengthening, of the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on Biological Diversity. This year, also, as we see the withdrawal of the majority of British Forces from Germany, we can be proud of our defence partnership and of everything we do together to enhance our shared security.
Ours is a relationship that is broad and wide-ranging because we need each other, but is deep and strong because of the mutual affection and profound respect between us.
It is a relationship in transition. But whatever the shape of our future relationship, and whatever is negotiated and agreed between governments and institutions, it is more clear to me than it has ever been, that the bonds between us will,and must, endure – and that our young people, and future generations, will have as much cause to cherish those bonds as our generation has had.
I can only say, for my own part, that my commitment to the relationship between Britain and Germany is both heartfelt and steadfast. I have long tried, in whatever small way I can, to foster the connections between us, whether through the military or through arts and culture; through my patronage of the Wörlitz Gardens in Sachsen-Anhalt, for example, which I am delighted to be visiting for the first time this week; or through the work of my Prince’s Foundation, in supporting projects such as the restoration of the remarkable 16th century timber courthouse in the town of Treffurt. All such initiatives, however big or small, or whoever is behind them, bring us together and keep us that way.
Exzellenzen, meine Damen und Herren, unsere Länder und unsere Völker haben gemeinsam so viel durchgestanden. Mit Blick auf die Zukunft hoffe ich sehr, dass wir uns auch versprechen werden, uns noch stärker füreinander und für die Bande zwischen uns einzusetzen.
[Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, our countries and our people have been through so much together. As we look towards the future, I can only hope that we can also pledge to redouble our commitment to each other and to the ties between us.]
In so doing, we can ensure that our continent will never again see the division and conflict of the past; that together, we will continue to be an indispensable force for good in our world; and that the friendships and partnerships that bind us together will continue to create opportunity for us all.”