I am pleased to wish North Rhine-Westphalia, on its 70th anniversary: Alles Gute!The Duke of Cambridge
President of the Bundestag,
President of the Landtag,
Damen und Herren,
Good evening everyone. I'm afraid I don't have much more in the way of German to offer so I hope you will not mind if I keep the rest of my brief remarks in English.
We are here tonight to celebrate the 70th birthday of North Rhine-Westphalia. But I am here as well to pay tribute to an extraordinary 70-year partnership between the United Kingdom and the people of this region.
The last few years have seen nations across Europe mark the end of the Second World War. The battles and suffering have been remembered and we have paid tribute to so many who lost their lives.
Tonight though, we have a welcome opportunity to celebrate the light that emerged from the tragedies of the last century and the miracle of friendship that was borne from devastating conflict.
70 years ago the British Military Administration created North Rhine-Westphalia through a merger of various territories, in a mission it called “Operation Marriage”. It was not the first 'marriage' brokered between England and North Rhein Westphalia to make history. Five hundred years ago here, in Düsseldorf, Anne of Cleves was born.
Her portrait appealed to the English King, Henry VIII and so, in 1540, she moved to England and became his Queen. As many of you will know, the marriage ended just six months later and Anne lived out the rest of her life in England as the King's 'beloved sister’.
The 'Operation Marriage' launched seventy years ago was, I am glad to say, vastly more successful. Since that time we have seen this Bundesland grow - through the dynamism of post-war economic success, the uncertainties of the Cold War and German division, and the joy of German Unification – into what is today the economic powerhouse of Germany and one of the most prosperous regions in Europe.
The British military, stationed in North Rhine-Westphalia since the end of the Second World War, has been present at every stage during this remarkable evolution. The 20thArmoured Infantry Brigade has today been recognised for its contribution to the local community and to the historical development of this Bundesland. May I congratulate Brigadier Elviss and the troops on receiving the Fahnenband of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Britain’s historic connection with North Rhine-Westphalia has created a unique set of ties which retain their relevance and importance to the present day. You are Britain's closest German economic partner; you are home to some 25,000 British people; many hundreds of thousands of your residents visit the UK every year and many tens of thousands of your students study at British universities. There is a thriving exchange of culture, science and sport between the UK and this dynamic and thriving Bundesland.
In short, what began 70 years ago as a relationship of necessity between an occupying power and a region in ruin, is today a partnership of genuine friendship and of massive mutual benefit.
This partnership will continue despite Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union. The depth of our friendship with Germany and with North Rhine-Westphalia will not change. Bilaterally and internationally we will continue together to lead efforts to promote prosperity, security and stability in the world.
Let me conclude by celebrating that 70 years on from its founding, North Rhine-Westphalia is now a dynamic region admired across the world for its economic strength, quality of life, and close partnerships.
Britain has been one of the closest of those partners and will remain so in future. So, on behalf of the British people, I am pleased to wish North Rhine-Westphalia, on its 70th anniversary: