Britain and Germany stand united with Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s unprovoked invasion, King Charles said in Berlin on Wednesday during his first foreign visit since taking the throne. At a state banquet hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the monarch underlined both countries’ commitment to “protecting and advancing shared democratic values”. “This is epitomised so clearly today as we stand together with Ukraine in defence of freedom and sovereignty in the face of unprovoked aggression,” he said. The British sovereign, 74, is on a three-day visit of Germany in a trip billed as “an important European gesture” to maintain strong ties after Brexit. Hailing the “enduring value” of ties with Germany, he said he would “do all I can to strengthen the connections between us”. Host Steinmeier had earlier spoken of the “sad day” six years ago when Britain began its exit from the European Union. “Today, exactly six years later, we are opening a new chapter,” the German president said. “We are now looking ahead under changed conditions – but still together,” he said, adding in English that “our friendship is important, and it is strong”. Britain and Germany’s joint actions to help Ukraine in defending its freedom underlined “how strong our connection is”, Steinmeier said. UK reliance on overseas workers rose since Brexit, census shows Germany rolled out the pomp in their welcome of the royal visitors, greeting them at Berlin-Brandenburg airport with a 21-gun salute while two military planes made a fly-past as they watched from the top of the plane stairs. The British Union flag was flapping alongside the German and European Union flags along Berlin’s central Unter den Linden avenue, which leads to the Brandenburg Gate. Steinmeier and German first lady Elke Buedenbender met the royal couple with military honours at the landmark, the first time it has provided a backdrop for receiving a state guest. During his visit, Charles will also become the first monarch to address the German parliament, with a speech on Thursday, before travelling to the port city of Hamburg on Friday. The choice of Germany for Charles’s first visit, after a planned trip to France was postponed, showed Berlin was a “key partner” for Britain as it seeks to reset relations with the EU, daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote. At the Brandenburg Gate, crowds were waving British and German flags as they waited for the royals. Anja Wieting, 50, who works at a clothing store, took time off to drive five hours to Berlin with her daughter Lili, 18, for the spectacle. “It’s the visit of the king in Germany. We want to celebrate it, regardless of how long the queue is,” she said. The joy of well wishers who came face-to-face with the royals was palpable. “I was shocked,” said 19-year-old Andreina Riera from Venezuela, whose paper crown, adorned with a Burger King logo, was complimented by the Queen Consort. “I never imagined that could happen – her noticing me! I’m really happy,” Riera said. Queen Elizabeth letter from 1966 auctioned in Germany for US$8,634 “The British royal family garners a lot of interest” in Germany, said Michael Hartmann, a sociology professor at Darmstadt Technical University. The fascination with the House of Windsor has not dimmed since the death last year of Queen Elizabeth, Hartmann said. The late queen first visited Berlin in 1965 when the city was divided between a capitalist West and communist East, a trip that was seen as a key step in post-war reconciliation. Charles himself is a regular in Germany, having been in the country more than 40 times. He is fluent in German, a nod to the British royal family’s roots in Germany notably through Charles’s great-great-great-grandfather Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, queen Victoria’s husband. After Wednesday’s ceremonial pomp, Charles will undertake key political engagements on the second day of his trip. He will start the day with talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz before addressing the Bundestag. He will also meet refugees recently arrived from Ukraine, and meet a British-German military unit in the surrounding state of Brandenburg. A tour of an organic farm is also planned for the monarch, who has for years been pushing an environmental agenda. Charles was initially supposed to travel to France before heading to Germany, but his trip was postponed in the wake of violent pension reform protests.