In recent months, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats have floundered in attempts to form a new government. During the national elections last September, the success of the extreme right upset the parliamentary power of mainstream political parties. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which holds the largest proportion of seats in parliament (thirty-five percent), initially sought a governmental coalition with the Liberal Party (FDP) and the Greens. Despite the inevitable political compromises that a coalition would entail, the political parties in Germany have a responsibility towards their voters, the German public, and all of Europe to cooperate with each other.

In November, the negotiations between the CDU and the FDP broke down when the FDP opted out. Merkel’s party has since struggled to form a government. The CDU now seeks a great coalition (so called because it would join Germany’s two largest and most powerful parties) with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). The head of the SPD, Martin Schulz, lost the Chancellorship to Merkel in September. On January 28, the SPD voted to begin negotiations with the CDU in order to form a new government. Whether or not to work with the CDU has split the SPD and its voters.

Entering into a coalition with the Christian Democrats would enhance the SPD’s ability to advance the interests of the workers it represents. For five years prior to the September elections, the SPD participated in a governmental coalition with the CDU that involved a myriad of compromises on key issues.

Many Social Democrats blame that coalition for the party’s weakened position among the working class (the SPD now holds a mere 20 percent of seats in Parliament, down by half from 40 percent in 1998). These Social Democrats argue that the party would be more able to advance the interests of its voters if the SPD was the leading opposition party in Parliament.

This assumption flies in the face of history: the SPD’s last stint as leaders of the opposition from 2009-2013 generated a mere two percent increase in the party’s share of parliamentary seats. Moreover, the CDU leadership will be more malleable and open to compromise than it has been in years past due to its decline in popularity based on its response to Merkel’s increasingly unpopular refugee policies. Thus, the SPD’s best and most realistic prospects for regeneration lie in participating in the coalition.

The strength of the SPD carries importance for the European continent. Center-left parties across Europe have been on the decline in recent years, as their erstwhile working-class supporters have shifted towards far-right populist parties. A strong Social Democratic Party in one of Europe’s most populous and powerful countries could set the stage for the return of Social Democrats across the continent.

Perhaps most importantly, the willingness of the SPD to cooperate would ensure general political stability in Germany and Europe. Germany enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world and became a symbol of prosperity during the euro crisis as many of its European neighbors suffered.

Merkel turned Germany into a global leader in the shift towards renewable energy. As other countries built fences to keep refugees out, Merkel risked her political career to maintain a tolerant stance throughout the refugee crisis.

In an international political climate tarnished by the Anglo-American disasters of 2016 and the rise of far-right populism across Europe, Germany serves as an economic and ideological buttress for liberal Europe and a global symbol of stability, tolerance, and the rule of law.

Now this stability depends on the cooperation of the SPD: without a strong coalition holding the majority in Parliament, Merkel will either have to form a government based on her party’s meager 35 percent parliamentary minority or hold new elections. In the first scenario, the efficiency of the legislative process would be greatly diminished due to the absence of a unified majority. The second scenario presents the risk of the far-right AfD party winning an even greater proportion of parliamentary seats and becoming part of the governing coalition.

In short, the SPD’s willingness to cooperate with the CDU will influence the political climate across Europe by either upholding or dismantling the continent’s most stable pillar. The decision of the SPD will pave the way for either the return or the decline of the moderate left. The Social Democrats have a responsibility towards their constituents, their country, and all of Europe to form a coalition with the Christian Democrats.