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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday rejected the idea that her country was seeking "hegemony" in the European Union, and pledged to seek consensus with close partners.
Merkel said Germany always sought to make joint decisions with France and the other members of the 27-nation bloc.
"Germany has a ... sometimes complicated role because we are the largest economy -- we are not the richest, but we are the largest," Merkel said at a book presentation with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
She stressed that "therefore Germany will only act together with the others -- hegemony is totally foreign to me."
Merkel said Europe needed even closer cooperation to succeed amid tough global competition and to avoid decline, pointing to her personal experience growing up in the former communist East Germany.
"Look, I've experienced the collapse of a country, the GDR," she said, referring to the German Democratic Republic. "The economic system failed under the aegis of the Soviet Union.
"What I really don't want is to look on, eyes open, as Europe as a whole slips back. I would find that absurd, we have all the skills in our hands."
Angry protesters on the streets of debt-mired eurozone countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Portugal argue that Merkel is imposing austerity-driven prescriptions against the crisis that are choking off economic growth and killing jobs.
She has called for closer European integration as an answer to the debt turmoil with stepped-up checks on fiscal discipline.