International observers had waited eagerly for German elections to provide more clarity on where the country wants to take Europe on issues from Eurozone reform to Brexit negotiations to Turkey. Following an election night that saw Merkel return to power albeit weakened, reactions in the European press are mixed.

France

With Emmanuel Macron desperate to obtain German support for this Eurozone-reform proposal, and set to give a speech on it tomorrow, many awaited his reaction to the results. It came in calm and positive, with Macron tweeting out “I have called Angela Merkel to congratulate her. We will continue our essential cooperation with determination for Europe and for our countries.”

But Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National, saved her congratulations for a different party, tweeting, “Bravo to our allies in the AfD for this historic score! It’s a new symbol of the awakening of the peoples of Europe.”

Reactions from across the French press recognise the double-edged nature of Merkel’s victory. Left-leaning paper, Libération, titles its piece on the German election results, “Merkel, who wins loses”.

Similarly, today’s editorial in Le Figaro titled, “A shadow over Merkel”, argues, “Her new victory has a very bitter taste. The Chancellor’s place in history is tarnished by the historic score of AfD’s populists. Her migration policy combined with the alliance with SPD handed this result to the extreme right…here is “Mummy” transformed into “mother of the AfD”.

Le Monde’s analysis concludes,

On Sunday, the German public chose to continue their adventure with Angela Merkel. But “season 4” [her fourth term] starts off very differently to previous ones, with a protagonist weakened as never before, facing a largely unprecedented political landscape.

UK

The Times calls Merkel “wounded” and argues Germany faces difficult coalition talks which could “paralyse” politics in the country for months. It focuses on the AfD’s gains taking the limelight, and reports:

“The party’s success showed that Germany was not immune from the nationalism sweeping Europe and the United States.

The Times explains:

“Mrs Merkel was acutely aware that her decision to open German borders to more than a million mostly Muslim asylum seekers had turned many Germans against her”, and continues “There was little sign of contrition from her, despite losing about 70 seats.

The Guardian headlined with the “bombshell” resignation of the AfD’s leader, Frauke Petry, after the party’s gains. This is reported as an illustration of how split the party remains, despite an attempt to show a united front during the campaign. The Guardian reports that the former leader, described as a “more moderate member of the party”, clashed with the more far-right elements of the AfD which have become the stronger force.

The Financial Times Brussels Briefing notes new challenges ahead for Eurozone reforms following yesterday’s results:

“Even if Mr Schäuble stays on in his post or moves to a bolstered interior and migration minister position, a new German government will have a strident voice opposing fiscal transfers and risk-sharing in the euro. The result is a blow to Mr Macron and threatens to limit any grand Franco-German pact on Eurozone reform before the debate has even begun. A Jamaica government will constrict Ms Merkel’s room to manoeuvre at home. Reformers in Brussels may need to initially set more realistic goals, such as some of the unfinished business of the banking union.

Austria

The leader of Austrian daily Die Presse focuses on CDU’s losses to the AfD, arguing that

“Voters presented [Merkel] with the bill for the refugee crisis. With her open border policy, the Chancellor left too much room in the right. That hit her with a vengeance. The Grand Coalition was voted away.

However, Die Presse also interpreted the SPD’s catastrophic result as indicative of a more fundamental problem with social democracy itself, arguing that even in opposition the SPD will find it hard to re-establish itself:

“Social democratic candidates only have a shot at electoral victories when they distance themselves from the parties, like Emmanuel Macron [did] in France.”

Der Standard sees Merkel’s re-election as a sign of continuity, saying, “No serious changes were expected from the result of the German election anyway.” Focusing on the implications that FDP’s potential participation in government could have for Eurozone integration and the Franco-German axis, Der Standard said, “For Macron, FDP’s participation would be a nightmare, because a deepened EU integration would be hindered or even prevented. However, according to insiders there might be a consolation price for Paris: Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is considered a favourite for the leadership of the Eurogroup, as long as Merkel agrees.”

For the Kronenzeitung, Merkel might have scored a nominal victory, but the AfD were the real winners of the election, because

“Angela Merkel underestimated the dissatisfaction with her policies. She received the bill for her immigration policy and her ‘presidential’ (some would say arrogant) governing style. Merkel didn’t explain herself to the people.”

Italy

Italy’s left-leaning Repubblica focuses on the strong performance of the AfD, writing that “a young party in is fourth year, on the wings of xenophobic populism, has become the third biggest force in the Bundestag”. It notices the internal tensions that accompany this success however, as party leader Frauke Petry in a “coup de theatre” announces she will not be part of the AfD’s parliamentary group.

The politically independent Il Fatto Quotidiano emphasises the disappointing performance, relative to expectations, of Merkel’s CDU. The newspaper ventilates the possibility of  the resignation of Schäuble – who doesn’t enjoy great popularity among the Italian public – as the main consequence of the quest for a new governing coalition:

Merkel can find a solution [to the dilemma she faces in forming a new governing coalition]: trading the head of the troublesome and disliked finance minister, promising him the presidency in exchange.

The centrist Corriere della Sera speaks of a “political earthquake” and a “revolution” after “a boring electoral campaigning, deprived of any significant content” speaks, which highlights the poor performance of the traditional majority parties CDU/CSU and SPD.

According to Il Giornale, a right-wing newspaper close to Berlusconi,

The Chancellor pays a high price for welcoming a million refugees. Now she will have to solve the majority puzzle.

The Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano congratulates Mrs Merkel, saying that “once again Germany has chosen the popular ones over populists. Common sense triumphs”.

Poland

Polish vice-president of the European Parliament, Ryszard Czarnecki, has said,

On the same day, two politicians who criticized our homeland, who attacked Poland – namely Mr. Schulz in Germany and President Macron in France – suffered electoral defeat [referring to the results of the German parliamentary election and French Senate election].”

He suggested, “It is not worthwhile to criticize Poland.”

Elsewhere, Poland’s liberal-aligned paper, Gazeta Wyborcza, warns,

The AfD will divide the parliament into friends and foes (as the ruling PiS has done here): into better and worse Germans, patriots and traitors. In this atmosphere there can be no discussion about finding a common denominator…The politicians will have to defend them from day one. So in Germany a battle against the enemies of democracy has begun.

Czech Republic

The Czech right-leaning paper, Lidové noviny, warned that demonising the AfD had lost the CDU/CSU and the SPD voters: “Above all the grand coalition was punished for pushing its critics and opponents into a corner. The more it condemned critics as populists and extremists, the more points the latter were able to score with voters.”

Greece

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras congratulated Angela Merkel on her electoral victory, saying, “Congratulations to Angela Merkel on her victory in the German election. Today, a Europe of solidarity and democracy is more important and necessary than ever. Those of us who believe in it must work together despite our differences for the integration and expansion of the European values.”

In a letter to the Chancellor, leader of the opposition Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke of a window for courageous change in Europe, “so that no citizen is left marginalised.” Some of the reactions were also ridden with concerns over the rise of the far-right in the country, a political trend with which Greece itself is well familiar.

Vice-President of the European Parliament Dimitris Papadimoulis said,

It is a black day not only for Germany… but also for Europe and for Greece, which has suffered from Nazism. [The AfD] bet on fear and insecurity combining the refugee crisis with terrorism, and they won causing big losses for Mrs Merkel’s party.”

Overall, the Greek press sees the German election as a Pyrrhic victory for Merkel, with the potential to destabilise Germany and complicate Greek-German relations. The news website Reader.gr speaks of the “new Germany of 25th September”, arguing that the CDU will need a “plan that goes beyond Merkel’s time as Chancellor, while addressing the problems that cost her significant electoral power.” Separately, Greek daily Kathimerini is expecting a period of introversion and pragmatism, which will be reflected in cautious domestic policy and reluctance towards European reforms.

The Greek press has welcomed the election results with concern over their implications for Greece. With the AfD in Parliament, Kathimerini is anticipating a toughening of Germany’s position vis-à- vis Turkey, arguing,

“The deterioration of the EU-Turkey relations will have an impact on Greece. Because of its geographical positioning, our country in on the ‘first line’ of [Turkey’s] contact with the Union, while the Aegean Sea is a convenient for [Turkish President Reccep Tayip] Erdogan to send a message. [We can expect] anything from an influx of refugees, to an escalation of military tensions.”

With the FDP expected to join the government in a Jamaica coalition, there is also widespread concern over Germany’s positioning on the Greek crisis, as FDP leader Christian Lindner has supported Grexit. News website The Toc argues cites a source from the German finance ministry as saying that the participation of the FDP in the government “would not be the best for Greece.” The Toc also argues that Greece can hope that the Greens’ support of Greece would balance out the FDP’s more radical positions.

Ireland

An editorial in The Irish Times argues,

“As Europe’s indispensable leader, her success will be cheered widely as a sign that, as with Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France last May, strong candidates can still find a receptive audience with a brand of progressive centrism that refuses to pander to the divisive slogans of the populist revolt.”

But it warns of a new trend across Europe:

“Victory is tempered by a complex post-election landscape that will provide a stern test of her leadership. As in Ireland, France and elsewhere, the traditionally dominant blocs are in a period of relative decline…The future of the EU may not have featured in the election campaign, but it will loom large in the aftermath of the vote.”

Portugal

Much of the coverage in the Portuguese press focused on Merkel’s costly win, and the AfD entering Parliament for the first time: “Merkel needs a pact with the Greens and liberals… and the far-right managed to get into the Bundestag” said popular news channel SIC Notícias.

The daily tabloid Diário de Notícias elaborates on the threat of Merkel’s opponents to the European project. It argues that the AfD’s gains are not the only danger for Portugal, but also warns of the liberals of the FDP who advocate the expulsion of Greece, and potentially Portugal, from the euro.