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Politics

Merkel calls for 'courage' in New Year's address

Chancellor Angela Merkel has appealed for courage and continued innovation in her New Year's address. Balancing German prosperity with the precarious European position, Merkel invoked an old Greek adage.

Angela Merkel looked back half a century in her pre-recorded speech, due to be televised later on Monday, saying "2013 will be a year of many 50th anniversaries."

Merkel's New Year speech

The beginning of the German football Bundesliga, PAL format color television - invented by German Walter Bruch - US President John F. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech and the Elysee Treaty between former foes France and Germany were among the silver jubilees Merkel mentioned.

Merkel also honored the Anglophone television show "Dinner for One," a New Year's institution in Germany, on its 50th birthday. The show involves an old woman and her butler at an empty dinner party, with the butler becoming increasingly inebriated as he drains the glasses and plays the roles of his employer's "guests."

Courage was Merkel's buzzword for the year to come, with both of her chosen quotes concerning this concept.

Bravery first, then reward

Merkel quoted a pithy saying from Catholic priest and social reformer Adolph Kolping of Cologne, "wer Mut zeigt, macht Mut," which says that displays of courage encourage bravery in others.

Merkel told three anecdotes, one of a football team that rallied to stop a member dropping out of school and two of technological progress improving the lives of severely ill children. Such innovation, Merkel said, helped explain Germany's falling unemployment figures - with jobless rates lower than they have ever been since reunification.

"That is why we are investing more than ever before in education and research," Merkel said. "If we can do something that others cannot, we preserve and create prosperity."

The chancellor cautioned, however, that while changes to combat European sovereign debts were starting to bear fruit, "we still need a lot of patience."

"The crisis is far from over," Merkel said.

Here, too, Merkel invoked courage as the cure – quoting a great thinker from ancient Greece, arguably the focal point of the modern day eurozone difficulties.

"Courage marks the beginning of action, fortune its end," Merkel said, borrowing from the repertoire of philosopher and scientist Democritus. As one of the earliest thinkers to posit the existence of atoms, it's perhaps no surprise that Democritus was on the radar of the German chancellor, who wrote a Ph.D. thesis on quantum chemistry.

Continued compassion and success

The chancellor also called for more international efforts "to monitor the financial markets," saying that the world had not yet learned enough from the so-called financial crisis of 2008.

Merkel also thanked soldiers, police officers and civil servants for their efforts to keep the country, and other parts of the world, safe.

She concluded by calling on Germans to "again put our greatest strengths to the test" in 2013, "our togetherness, our cointinued capacity for new ideas," calling these the roots of economic success.

"Then Germany will continue to be compassionate and successful," Merkel said, returning to a phrase featured earlier in her speech.

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