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Germany

Merkel Strikes Personal Note in New Year's Wishes to Germans

Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a personal call to Germans to dare to achieve more in the new year, and said her new government would set the best example.

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Merkel: No reason men can't achieve what women do

"What can be accomplished in a year?" Merkel asked, in traditional New Year's Eve remarks to be broadcast Saturday. "A great deal! How would it be if we all set a goal tonight to accomplish a bit more in the coming year?"

Merkel, who defeated Gerhard Schröder in a September general election, acknowledged that her remarks might encounter cynicism in a country with stagnant economic growth and a double-digit unemployment rate.

"Some will say, 'She should talk, she's doing well, she accomplished a lot of what was important to her this year. But me? How should things go forward after I lost my job? When will I finally find an apprenticeship? How can we head off the bankruptcy of our company? What will happen to me and my family?' I understand these questions. I know that a lot is being demanded of many people already."


Swipe at focus on gender

She said all eyes would be on Germany in 2006, particularly in light of next summer's soccer World Cup being staged throughout the country.

"The world will be watching Germany just like 16 years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall," said Merkel, who hails from the former communist east. Of course the events cannot be compared but nevertheless, billions of people will be watching the World Cup on television and millions will come to visit us."

Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, took a sly swipe at the media's obsessive focus on her gender as she wished the German side good luck in the championship.

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The Germans hold the title in women's soccer

"The women's national soccer team is already the world champion and I see no reason why men should not be able to achieve the same as women," she said.


Potential in Germany

She said that Germany had the potential to surmount its economic and social problems, and that her government intended to lead the way with a frank discussion of the challenges and its plans for facing them.

"Setting unattainable goals? That is not our style. Making promises we cannot keep? You have had enough of that," she said, reiterating her aim to return Germany to its status as one of Europe's most dynamic economies by 2010. Merkel said her government would pursue this goal by taming the spiraling public debt, reforming the labor market, cutting red tape and improving the climate for investment.

She said her "greatest wish" for 2006 was for Germany to live "in peace and freedom" with its neighbors and called to that end for a rapid relaunch of efforts to approve a European constitution.





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