20 February 2016

Looking at how the foreign press is reacting to the UK-EU deal finalised at the EU summit yesterday night is a very interesting exercise. Compare and contrast the below with the tone of the British press (‘Thin Gruel’, humble proposals’, etc.) and it is clear that the continental media broadly regard the agreement negotiated by EU leaders as rather significant – for better or worse – to the future of European integration.

Die Welt: The Brits “have freed the EU from the yoke” of ever closer union

In German daily Die Welt, political commentator Alan Posener writes that Cameron has “done the EU an invaluable service”, because “the Brits have freed the EU from the yoke of the end goal of a political union”. He argues,

Cameron got all he had asked for at the EU summit – and more. For though he sold the outcome as a victory for Britain, in reality he has – along with [European Council President] Donald Tusk – negotiated a reform of the EU as a whole.

Nikolaus Blome, the Editor in Chief of Bild, writes,

There is no longer any uniform movement at the level of 28 [member states]. Whoever wants more Europe, such as Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble, will have to convince their citizens in a smaller group and can take comfort from the fact the EU was founded as a sixsome…Ultimately, David Cameron and the EU have done each other a service even it if does not appear as such at first glance.

However, Stefan Kornelius, the Foreign Editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung, sees things rather differently,

The [British] Prime Minister wants reforms, but they are not really to be taken seriously: Cameron’s need for change is for the purpose of political self-preservation. Cameron is about Cameron, not the EU.

Le Figaro: UK deal is “kiss of death” for EU

An editorial on the front page of today’s Le Figaro runs with the headline, “The kiss of death”, and argues,

If Britain remains in the EU on the conditions it has been offered, it kills it. If it leaves, it kills it too…As it is not combined with a project of collective relaunch, the Brussels compromise puts the worm into the fruit. No-one has reason any longer to bend to the common rules, since one can escape them by means of a little blackmail.

According to Cécile Ducourtieux, Brussels correspondent for French daily Le Monde,

The negotiation with [David] Cameron has amplified the movement towards a Europe à la carte.

Moving to Italy, Adriana Cerretelli, Brussels correspondent for business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, does not think the UK-EU deal will change much at all. She writes,

In the end, the agreement arrived – without winners or losers. A deal between opposed weaknesses, shared by both those who want more Europe and those who want less. Perhaps it wasn’t worth wasting so much time changing something that would change almost nothing.

El País: UK-EU deal amounts to Treaty change by the backdoor

Spanish columnist Xavier Vidal-Folch is no big fan of the UK-EU deal, and writes in El País that the provisions on migration run counter to the spirit of the EU Treaties,

The [deal] is a legal mess. It amends the [EU] Treaties…while cynically claiming that it is only interpreting them…If the governments betray us, we the citizens are left with the parliaments – and the courts. We won’t go back to being foreigners.

Pablo Rodríguez Suanzes, Brussels correspondent for Spanish daily El Mundo, writes,

David Cameron is the political winner of this euro-theatre, although he stepped on many toes and made few friends. But the losers are not his partners or the [EU] institutions, but the millions of citizens who know that we are not equal before the law.