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Swiss media see fragmentation and an uncertain future for Europe

Swiss newspapers on Monday morning agree that the right-populist surge in the weekend’s European elections was significant, but less than monumental.

“The onslaught of Eurosceptics and nationalists seems to have been averted,” writes Stephan Israel in an editorial in the Tages-Anzeiger. “The widely-heralded ‘turning point’ in Europe’s history is not yet here – but it’s coming closer”, says Blick.

The message runs across many Swiss newspapers on Monday. Despite the victories of figures like Matteo Salvini in Italy and Marine Le Pen in France, populists performed less well than expected in Germany and the Netherlands, and fears of an anti-EU surge brought about the biggest voter turnout in decades, they report.

However, the clarity stops there. If the newspapers agree that populists have not swept the stakes, they also agree that nobody else has. Or, as the online media outlet Watson puts it, “the most important finding from the 2019 European elections is that there is no clear trend”.

Indeed, the word “fragmentation” is seen across several newspapers. Blick reckons that this reflects the growing divisions within societies in Europe and says that “the large informal coalition between Christian and Social Democrats is over” – referring to the losses of traditional centrist parties and the gains of right-populists, Eurosceptics, liberals, and greens.

Cautiously optimistic?

Whether this is good news or bad news remains to be seen. French-language paper Le Temps is cautiously optimistic about the green wave and new liberal blocs like that of Emmanuel Macron, but also says that if the “European rejectors manage – which they never have done until now – to unite and work together in the Strasbourg parliament, their effectiveness will be doubled”.

The Tages-Anzeiger writes that the fragmentation will “make it harder to find majorities in the future” to tackle big European questions – a concern echoed in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, which reckons that such issues were also overlooked during the campaign.

“The most pressing questions about the future of the EU remain unanswered,” writes Peter Rásonyi. Too much focus on populism and the rise of Eurosceptics have distracted from the “unsustainable” structures of the European economic and monetary union, as well as the “ticking time bomb” of Italian fiscal policy, and large divisions on asylum and migration policy.

Ultimately, when it comes to finding solutions in the new parliament for these issues, he writes, “disappointment is likely to follow.”