Why is India part of the Commonwealth

The world of the queen : What else does the Commonwealth mean?

Was that the grand gesture that many have been waiting for so long? When Queen Elizabeth II traveled to the island of Malta for the Commonwealth Summit on Friday, she had her son and his wife with her. For some observers, this is a clear indication that the time will come soon. That the Queen will present Prince Charles to the assembled heads of state of her empire and then soon abdicate in favor of her son.

King Charles, the new ruler of the Commonwealth? Well, it's not that far yet. But last but not least, the speculations about the Queen's followers show that this meeting is still attracting a lot of attention. In general, the almost 90-year-old queen has brought with her a larger line-up than ever before at a summit. In addition to Camilla and Charles, the Queen was also accompanied by her husband Philip, the 94-year-old Duke of Edinburgh. Your signal: the meeting is important, you are important. Like every two years, the Commonwealth countries want to demonstrate their importance in Malta. Otherwise, this only happens at the Commonwealth Games, which, like the Olympic Games, take place every four years.

The Queen wouldn’t have to go there, nor would she have to endure these hardships at her age. Nor does she come because she loves the island on which she once spent two happy years with Philip. Not even because the traditional appointment to visit the thoroughbred horses of the Racing Club is due. Rather, Elizabeth II came because no organization in the world is more important to her than the Commonwealth of Nations, as it is called. He is her baby. When she first attended one of these meetings, the Commonwealth had seven members; today there are 53. Many of them are former British colonies. They share English culture, English legal and constitutional traditions, and the English language. The Queen feels at home among them.

But not everyone feels comfortable under her. Again and again there are nations that are thinking about leaving this confederation. That was already the case at the beginning of the 20th century. The British Commonwealth of Nations was founded in 1926 as a kind of successor organization to the British Empire in order to counteract the drive for autonomy of the Dominions such as Canada, South Africa or Australia. 89 years later, almost 30 percent of the world's population live in member states of the Commonwealth, such as India, Zambia, Vanuatu and Trinidad and Tobago. Many of the Commonwealth countries even have the old Union Jack in their flags - and, like New Zealand recently, are thinking about whether it is still appropriate. The fact that the nations feel differently committed to the confederation of states is certainly part of the system.

Your last trip abroad?

In contrast to the European Union, for example, much of the Commonwealth takes place on a voluntary and equal basis. Respect for the national independence of the members is an iron basic principle. For example, the heads of government could decide to elect their boss democratically and ignore the old monarchical rituals. In any case, the Queen is only the official head of state in 16 of the 53 countries. She has only been absent once since her first summit in 1974, two years ago. For reasons of age and because of a growing aversion to long-distance travel, it was said. The current one could have been her last trip abroad.

The greatest thing that brought about the connection was probably the organization of the world boycott against the apartheid state of South Africa. Since then, however, the Commonwealth members have shrunk away from clear mutual criticism. With one exception. Canada canceled its attendance at the meeting in Sri Lanka because of the human rights violations, disappointed that they met there at all. For the then President of the “Royal Commonwealth Society”, Peter Kellner, this was an indication that the League of Nations could be “on the way to irrelevance”.

Others, like Kellner's successor Lord Howell, predict a great future for the Commonwealth precisely because of its loose and tolerant organization. The same applies to British Eurosceptics, who saw the entry into the EU as a betrayal of the Commonwealth and its countries. At least according to the numbers, the English confederation is more successful. In 1974, one year after British accession, the Commonwealth overtook the EU in terms of economic power. Since then, the Commonwealth Group has grown steadily while the EU has lost its share of world trade.

Democracy, freedom of speech, human rights - actually

The Commonwealth of Nations sees itself as a multiethnic and multicultural organization. This year's meeting, which ended on Sunday, is about climate policy, for example. Before the Paris climate talks, the aim is to make the voice of the “Third World” heard and to show that the Commonwealth plays an important role in the networked world precisely because of its geographical and ethnic diversity.

In the meantime, the union of nations also has a charter, which obliges the members to democracy, freedom of speech and the observance of human rights. Nevertheless, in states like Uganda or Malawi, for example, homosexuality is forbidden without the confederation taking any action. Respect for the sovereignty of the former colonies is paramount. Reminders and requests are allowed, but sanctions are better not. After all, the British don't want to be seen as walkers again.

As an experienced diplomat, the Queen knows how to deal with her countries. It has held the Commonwealth together for decades with a mixture of respect and tolerance, praise and cautious criticism, and above all restraint. Charles, on the other hand, is often said to have a stormy nature and a real addiction to reform. He can look over his mother's shoulder in Malta and learn how to do it right. Maybe that's why the queen took him away.

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