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Queen warns of the dangers in a divided Europe

By Tony Jones

Published 25/06/2015

The Queen laughs as she watches a robot with Chancellor Angela Merkel at a Berlin university
The Queen laughs as she watches a robot with Chancellor Angela Merkel at a Berlin university
The painting of the Queen with her father when she was a girl

The Queen has spoken of the dangers of division in Europe and how it must strive to "maintain the benefits of the post-war world" in an speech to Germany and Britain's leaders.

Her comments were made at a State banquet in Berlin in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister David Cameron, who wants reform of Britain's membership of the European Union.

The Queen, who is on a four-day State visit to Germany with the Duke of Edinburgh, went on to say that "division in Europe is dangerous".

The Prime Minister's proposals for reform will be considered by European leaders at a summit today and he has indicated he believes changes to the EU's fundamental treaties will be necessary.

Germany's President Joachim Gauck went further in his banquet speech and said the EU needed Britain and that it would support a "constructive dialogue" on the reforms Mr Cameron wants.

The Queen told her host, as guests sat down to dinner at the 18th Century Bellevue Palace, Mr Gauck's official Berlin residence: "In our lives, Mr President, we have seen the worst but also the best of our continent. We have 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.

"We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it."

The Prime Minister wants to renegotiate Britain's membership ahead of a referendum by the end of 2017 and although the issue is not on the formal agenda for the Brussels summit he will have an opportunity over dinner tonight to explain to the EU's 28 national leaders the reforms he is seeking.

The Prime Minister's moment at the gathering could yet be overshadowed by the crisis over Greece, which is engaged in desperate last-minute talks with eurozone members to extend its bailout funding.

The German President told the Queen in his speech: "Your Majesty, you have also witnessed the advance of European integration.

"We know that we need an effective European Union based on a stable foundation of shared values. A constructive dialogue on the reforms Britain wants to see is therefore essential. As a good partner, Germany will support this dialogue.

"A united Europe, a strong European Union, represent stability, peace and freedom - for us all.

"There is a saying in the nautical world: 'There is but a plank between a sailor and eternity'. Yes, some planks in the European ship could be improved. But to be frank, we in Germany would rather strengthen the planks than tear them out."

The Queen paid tribute to the way in which Germany has rebuilt its relationships with surrounding countries since Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime was defeated in 1945.

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