THE new German coalition's plans to hit the ground running in the new year were dealt an unforeseen blow yesterday with news that Chancellor Angela Merkel had fractured her pelvis in a skiing accident and had been forced to cancel meetings and visits for the next three weeks.
Ms Merkel (59) and her husband have for several years taken Christmas breaks cross-country skiing in Engadin near St Moritz. Her holidays are hardly mentioned in the German media. Yesterday, however, government spokesman Steffen Seibert had little option but to disclose that Ms Merkel, beginning her third term in office, would be pretty much out of physical action for the next three weeks.
Mr Seibert said Ms Merkel had returned from holiday believing she had merely suffered bruising from her fall.
But after being examined by a doctor in Berlin she was told that she had suffered a fracture which would require "lots of lying down" for a period of up to six weeks.
In what appeared to be a reference to the life-threatening skiing accident suffered by the former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, Mr Seibert said: "We are assuming that she was travelling at low speed."
Some reports in the German media implied that Ms Merkel's fall might have been due to her allegedly 20-year-old cross-country skis.
The manufacturer recently urged Ms Merkel to buy a new pair and warned that after a decade of use such skis "noticeably lose their tension".
Ms Merkel is reported to be walking with the aid of crutches. She has had to cancel a visit to Poland and an audience with Xavier Bettel, the new prime minister of Luxembourg.
Her injury has also obliged Ms Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Party to postpone a key leadership meeting which had been planned for the weekend.
Mr Seibert said the chancellor would not have to spend time in hospital but would conduct much of her business on the phone from home.
Ms Merkel's accident is another false start for her only recently formed "grand coalition" of conservative Christian Democrats and left-of-centre Social Democrats.
The new government was sworn in in December after months of fraught negotiations, the longest in post-war German history.
The two parties in the coalition have been at loggerheads over the issue of Romanian and Bulgarian immigration into Germany since late last year.
The Bavarian wing of Ms Merkel's party has demanded strict control and even fingerprinting of new arrivals from these countries. The Social Democrats are firmly against the idea. (© Independent News Service)