Germany's chancellor has warned that differing opinions threaten to tear "a rift" in society in a time of political uncertainty. She has called for more mutual respect and understanding.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel used her televised New Year's address on Sunday to call on German citizens to be respectful and listen to each other when discussing their political differences.
"It has been a long time since the differences of opinion about this have been so stark," she said, adding: "Some have even spoken of a rift running through our society."
Noting that success and trust mark today's Germany as much as fear and doubt, Merkel said Germans must "strive for more consideration of others again." The chancellor said that consideration means "paying attention, truly listening, and showing understanding for others."
Discontent and disillusion
The 63-year-old chancellor has been struggling to form a new coalition government since her Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), received the highest vote share in the September 24 national election.
Despite getting the most votes, the two parties performed worse than in previous elections. The vote marked the first-time entry of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) into Germany's parliament, the Bundestag.
Conservative lawmakers and commentators have criticized Merkel in recent months, arguing the chancellor's relatively progressive record during the past four years alienated conservative voters and helped the far right.
'The world will not wait for us'
Merkel assured she would seek to end Germany's political limbo by forming a new government as quickly as possible. Ensuring political stability was her duty, she said, adding: "The world will not wait for us."
The CDU/CSU and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) are to enter exploratory talks on renewing their "grand coalition" for another term in January.
Both sides agreed to enter those discussions after exploratory talks between the CDU/CSU, business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Green Party broke down in November.
Yet policy differences between the CDU/CSU and SPD, as well as stiff opposition to a renewed coalition among some SPD members, have cast uncertainty ahead of the discussions.
Merkel nonetheless said that many Germans were optimistic about the future amid the country's rapid economic growth and falling unemployment.
Europe is key
Merkel also said Germany should aim to secure jobs, create new ones, improve education, reduce regional inequalities, take advantage of new digital technologies and ensure the country's security over the next 10 to 15 years.
"Germany will truly thrive when its success benefits everyone, improving and enhancing our lives," she said.
The fate of the European Union (EU) will be vital to Germany's future success, Merkel added, urging the 27-country bloc to band together and secure its external border in the next few years.
She said she would work with French President Emmanuel Macron to "make Europe fit for the future."
amp/tj (dpa, AP)