Dr Angela Merkel's return to centre stage came only after tortured negotiations over months to stitch up a coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). It is welcome reassurance for a European Union that seemed to be adrift as domestic politics kept the German Chancellor distracted. The fact that four European leaders - Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni - called on her in the space of 24 hours last week underscores her heft. Many of her peers view her as the steady hand that rocks the EU cradle. Not for nothing is she fondly referred to as "Mother of Europe".
But the political deal has come at a price for both the Social Democrats, who last September recorded their worst showing since the nation became a federal republic in 1949, and Dr Merkel's own Christian Democratic Union. Many SDP hardliners believe the party would be better off rebuilding from outside government. Despite these misgivings, many SPD members are likely to approve the deal. Results will be announced on March 4. For Dr Merkel, the grand coalition was needed to avoid running a minority government, after her efforts to secure an alliance with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats failed in November.
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