French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Wednesday that France would return to NATO military structures and seek a larger role as a full partner of its Atlantic allies.
"I would like to thank the French president and his government for the decision to return to NATO's military structures," Merkel said at a news conference after the 11th meeting of the French-German Council of Ministers in Berlin.
"This step will strengthen the European components of the alliance and will have great significance for the improved correlation between European defense and security policy and NATO policy," she added.
Both leaders announced their plans to introduce their vision of NATO new strategy at its summit in April and pledged to strengthen the "German-French axis" within the alliance.
France abruptly pulled out of the NATO command in 1966, evicting all allied troops from its territory in what it said was a drive to safeguard its sovereignty. However, it remained part of the alliance and has continued to take part in NATO operations, including in Afghanistan where it has 2,780 troops.