In a televised speech, the German Chancellor promised to work with Emmanuel Macron, the French President, to champion their shared agenda on issues including economic growth and controlling migration.
She also pledged to form a government “without delay”, more than three months after elections that left her needing to negotiate a coalition arrangement – something she has so far proved unable to do.
Ms Merkel said: “Twenty-seven countries in Europe must be impelled more strongly than ever to remain a community.
“That will be the decisive question of the next few years. Germany and France want to work together to make it succeed.”
Highlighting issues such as the need to defend Europe’s borders, she said she and Mr Macron will work to “make Europe fit for the future”.
Ms Merkel is scheduled to begin negotiations with the Social Democrats on 7 January with a view to forming a government. She was forced to drop attempts to govern in coalition with the Free Democratic Party and Greens after talks collapsed in November.
The uncertainty surrounding German politics continues to affect Ms Merkel’s popularity. A new poll found 46 per cent of Germans want her to step down as Chancellor immediately.
Earlier this week another poll revealed 47 per cent of Germans do not want the current Chancellor to serve a full term – up from 36 per cent in October.
And nearly two-thirds of voters want her to resign if talks with the SPD fail.
Ms Merkel used her New Year message to highlight her record of economic growth and falling unemployment, but accepted concerns about issues such as immigration.
She admitted that “some are even talking about a split that goes through our society” but urged Germans to “respect each other more again”.
"Both are realities in our country: the success and the optimism, but also the fears and the doubts. For me, each is a spur to act," she said.
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