BERLIN, Germany – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has delivered a tough and resilient message in her New Year speech, vowing to fight terror in 2017 – while continuing to defend her open refugee policy.

Merkel reportedly said, “We are stronger when we are united. Our country is stronger.”

With Germany facing an increased number of terrorist attacks this year, 2016 has been a testing year for the country and its peace right from the start.

Merkel said, “It was without doubt that Islamist terrorists have been targeting Germans for many years. It was a bitter reckoning and a despicable one, that these attacks were carried out by individuals who came here ostensibly to seek safe haven and then received help and support.”

Last year, around a million migrants fled to Germany and raised a lot of concerns, eventually leading to protests against German chancellor Angela Merkel, who was urged to curb the inflow of immigrants especially after the new year’s eve sexual harassment incidents involving refugees and local women in Cologne.

In months to follow, Germany came under a string of terror attacks forcing security officials to be on high alert over the last few months.

In July, the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group claimed the attack on a German train near Wuerzburg in Bavaria that left four people gravely injured. In the same month, a teenager launched an axe and knife attack on a different train in Germany, leaving several people injured.

The month was also clouded by other ISIS-inspired terror attacks, one by a Syrian national, whose asylum application had been refused, blew himself up outside a bar in Ansbach, in southern Germany, injuring 15 people and another when a teenager went on a shooting rampage in Munich, killing nine people and leaving others injured.

More recently, a truck loaded with steel beams rammed into a Christmas market in Berlin earlier this month, killing at least 12 and injuring over 48 others.

Through the year, the country has faced rousing protests, demanding that the country tighten its immigration policies.

Merkel however has defended her open door refugee policy, which was passed in September 2015.

She said in her message, “With the images of the bombed in Aleppo in Syria, one may say once again how important and right it was that our country in the past year allowed those who actually need our help to be here with us, to take a step and to integrate.”

Adding, “All this — it is reflected in our democracy, in our state, in our values.”

The German Chancellor asked people to stay strong and promised them that the government would take swift and necessary political or legal changes to close down any security gaps.

Merkel also condemned the distorted picture of the European Union that is forcing people to believe that the EU and even parliamentary democracy were no longer working.

She went on to add that Europe has been slow and difficult and has suffered a blow with United Kingdom’s decision to leave. She further added that that country should focus on things where they can really do better than the nation-state.

“But no – we Germans should never be deceived into thinking that a happy future could ever lie in going it alone nationally,” she added.

Criticism against her open refugee policy can play an important role when Merkel seeks a fourth term as chancellor when the country heads to the polls in September 2017. Merkel has stated that she expects this to be her toughest campaign yet.

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