Queen Elizabeth warns of divided Europe ahead of EU summit

Monarch says ‘division in Europe is dangerous’ at dinner with Merkel and Cameron

Queen Elizabeth II calls on Europe to guard against division 'in the west, as well as in the east of our continent' at a state banquet in Berlin. VIdeo: Reuters


Queen Elizabeth II has warned of the dangers of a divided Europe hours before her prime minister, David Cameron, presents his reform proposals for the EU at today’s summit in Brussels.

At a dinner speech in Berlin the 89-year-old monarch warned her audience not to take for granted the benefits of a peaceful continent, seven decades after a world war unleashed by Berlin returned to the German capital.

“We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the West as well as in the East of our continent,” she said.

The monarch said she and German president Joachim Gauck – an East German civil rights campaigner – had seen “the worst but also the best” of Europe in their lifetimes.

The UK was one of Germany’s “strongest friends in Europe”, she said and had “achieved so much in working together” since 1945.

“I have every confidence that we will continue to do so in the years ahead,” she said.

Seated at a dinner table with Mr Cameron and Chancellor Angela Merkel, the queen said Europeans had witnessed how quickly things can change for the better.

“But we know that we must work hard to maintain the benefits of the post-war world,” she added, as Chancellor Angela Merkel nodded her head in agreement.

She paid tribute to the generations of Germans who had worked to reinvent Germany and help rebuild Europe since 1945 and singled out the Reichstag parliament building – with a dome by Britain’s Sir Norman Foster – as a striking example of Anglo-British co-operation at that time.

The significance of the monarch’s intervention in the UK’s debate on the EU was not lost on her German audience, in particular German president Joachim Gauck.

Citing the sailor’s wisdom that “between the sailor and eternity lies only a plank”, he added that it would be possible to replace “some planks” of the European ship .

“Speaking plainly: we in Germany would rather strengthen the planks than tear them out,” he said.

The German head of state said the EU could only tackle challenges effectively if it remained united in shared values.

“A constructive dialogue on the reforms Britain wants to see is therefore essential,” he said. “As a good partner, Germany will support this dialogue. For Britain is part of Europe. The European Union needs Britain.”

Mr Gauck said that the spread of democracy and the rule of law - in western Germany after the war and throughout the united country in the last quarter century - would not have been possible without British-German co-operation.

“That foes have become friends is partly thanks to Your Majesty,” he said. “You experienced the terrors of the war – the bombing of London and Buckingham Palace by the Germans. Nevertheless, you and your fellow Britons made a gesture of reconciliation, aptly in Dresden, the city where the war begun by Germany left especially deep wounds.”

The first day of the queen’s fifth official visit to Germany ended where it began, at Bellevue Palace, seat of the German president. After a morning courtesy call on Mr Gauck she took a boat with him down the Spree River to the chancellery of Angela Merkel for talks over tea.

Afterwards she laid a wreath to the victims of war and dictatorship at Berlin’s Neue Wache Memorial and visited Berlin’s Technical University to hear the Queen’s Lecture.

Inaugurated by her on her first visit 50 years ago, it was delivered on this occasion by Neil MacGregor, head of the British Museum and now co-curator of Berlin’s Humboldt Forum museum.

Today the queen and Prince Philip are in Frankfurt to visit the Paulskirche, the church where Germany’s first constitution was drafted in 1848. She will have a walkabout on the city’s central square, the Römerberg before heading back to Berlin’s Adlon Hotel beside the Brandenburg Gate.

On Friday she will meet locals at the hotel, on Berlin’s Pariser Platz, before heading to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Lower Saxony where at least 52,000 prisoners died, including juvenile diarist Anne Frank, before it was liberated by British troops in April 1945.

The monarch travels back to the UK on Friday evening.