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EU is relieved about Austria, but concerns for Italy and UK

Today’s EU media outlets broadly comment the election outcome in both Italy and Austria. Some media, mainly British ones, also continue to comment on the negotiations surrounding Brexit. Many of them underline the temporary relief in Europe as the far-right wing leader Norbert Hofer lost the Austrian presidential election. Indeed, independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, supported by the Green Party, won the presidential elections, according to the exit polls made public shortly after the voting ended, Adevarul.ro writes.

Mr Van der Bellen is said, according to initial projections, to have received 53,3% of the votes, Libération specifies. Der Standard comments that this election has been a landmark decision with a clear outcome, i.e. the majority of voters does not want a right-wing populist as federal president. A Salzburger Nachrichten editorial says the Austrian people have shown the world, that they do not want a “Trumpification” and that the rise of populism can be stopped.
On ARD, Sigmund Gottlieb welcomes the election result, arguing that Austria will not become one of those European states tending towards a return to the nation state. However, Zeit.de’s Ferdinand Otto shades this enthusiasm by saying that Austria remains divided and that many votes were based on dissatisfaction with the current political situation.
A commentary in Der Standard shares this caution, noting that the rifts that have opened in the population during the election campaign are still there. Highlighting another concern, Nikolas Busse said in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he hoped that there will not be another re-election, as this would further undermine the citizens’ trust in democracy. Nevertheless, he shares Sigmund Gottlieb’s view, writing that Mr Van der Bellen’s election appears to contradict the notion of a “domino effect” of Western countries falling into the hands of right-wing leaders.
However, an editorial from El País says, that even if the victory of the Green candidate has given Europe some relief, it is also a wake-up call for the whole of Europe that offers some valuable lessons. As Alexander Van der Bellen is viewed as pro-European, the result of the election has been received positively in the EU, Berlingske Tidende notes, quoting European Parliament President Martin Schulz as saying, that “Alexander Van der Bellen’s victory is a great defeat for nationalism, for reactionary ideas and anti-European populism”.
Der Kurier announces that European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker is planning to comment on the election result as soon as it is official. Rzeczpospolita believes that the irresponsibility of the populist candidate, Norbert Hofer, has worked against him, as for example, after claiming to invoke an EU exit referendum had he won, he denied his own words.
Despite his defeat, Hotnews.ro portal underlines, that Norbert Hofer will not give up his political career and announced that he would run again in the presidential elections in six years’ time.
Another deadline was closely observed in Italy this Sunday. The Italian people did not validate the referendum regarding the major constitutional reform proposed by Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, Hotnews.ro portal writes. The first results are showing that around 60% of Italian voted against the proposed reforms.
According to La Stampa, this outcome seems the worst political scenario for the EU in particular, as not only Italy has now no government, but it also has to deal with populism. Another commentary from this Italian newspaper underlines that Italian voters focused on Italy’s situation and did not seem concerned over the consequences their vote could have on Europe’s stability and future.
In an analysis in Svt.se, Kristina Kappelin wrote that therefore the Italian referendum was won by the Five Star Movement, Silvio Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia and EU and migration-opposed, Lega Nord. Corriere della Sera comments, that following the results, Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi resigned late on Sunday night. However another article from this publication highlights the fact, that the Italian Prime Minister had the support of many leaders, like Barack Obama and Jean-Claude Juncker. Despite this backing, Matteo Renzi is expected to submit his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Monday afternoon.
El País writes that the prime minister did not even wait for the final vote count, to announce his defeat. La Repubblica adds that following Matteo Renzi’s announcement, that he would step down, the euro tumbled to the lowest level against the US dollar since March 2015 (-1.3%).
Amidst the brainstorming on the consequences of both election outcomes, Brexit remains a much discussed issue in the media. Attorney General Jeremy Wright will today tell the Supreme Court that it should overturn a High Court ruling, that Parliament must be consulted before Article 50 is triggered, warning that failure to do so, could have a “direct impact” on the future of Brexit negotiations, The Times reports.
Britain’s Supreme Court will decide on Thursday, after four days of hearings, if Article 50 can be invoked without a vote in Parliament, as whished for by Theresa May, Les Echos specifies. This new delay is source of tension as a Daily Mail editorial already argues that the Supreme Court case on Article 50 will deliver a political, rather than a legal decision, and warned that “militant Remainers” would use any result in their favour to “sabotage the referendum result – and thwart the will of the people”.
Indeed, De Standaard reports that Ms May seems to prefer a soft-Brexit, while several British Ministers do not. Some British newspapers also comment on the victory of pro-European conservative MP Sarah Olney in the Richmond Par by-election. While a Guardian editorial argues that this result shows what can be achieved if pro-European forces from all parties work together, a Times editorial reduces this result’s meaning in saying that it shows “nothing so clearly as the breadth and depth of the divisions” in Britain.
Les Echos say that British prime minister continues to hide her cards, to the great dismay of her European partners, adding that with such uncertainty, some of them are losing patience, most obviously Donald Tusk. It is also the case internally as The Express reports that a letter signed by 200 business leaders will be delivered to Downing Street to urge Theresa May to “get on with Brexit”.
The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum warns that Theresa May’s indecision over Brexit could lead to a classic revolutionary dynamic as in the general chaos, the loudest, clearest and more convincing voices are the most radical ones. Moreover, Theresa May has threatened to sack ministers and civil servants caught leaking Cabinet secrets amid growing signs of Brexit panic in Downing Street, the Mail on Sunday comments. In a delicious irony. the letter from the Cabinet secretary was of course leaked.
©europeanunion2016
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