COVID made last year in office the hardest: Merkel

In a rare show of emotion, Merkel, who steered Germany and the European Union through the 2008 financial crisis, the Greek debt crisis a year later and the migrant crisis five years ago, condemned a protest movement opposed to lockdowns and said she would get vaccinated when the shot is widely available.

"Let me tell you something personal in conclusion: in nine months a parliamentary election will take place and I won't be running again," said Merkel.

"Today is therefore in all likelihood the last time I am able to deliver a New Year's address to you."

She added: "I think I am not exaggerating when I say: never in the last 15 years have we found the old year so heavy and never have we, despite all the worries and some scepticism, looked forward to the new one with so much hope."