Brexit: What the European papers say

Screen grab from the online edition of Le Figaro Image copyright Le Figaro
Image caption France's Le Figaro: "The worst-case scenario hasn't happened so far"

The debate in Britain about how and when to leave the European Union continues to interest the press on the continent.

The boost it seems to have given to anti-EU populists in other countries is also drawing press attention to the likely impact on an upcoming series of important referendums and elections.

'No Schadenfreude'

In Germany, Sueddeutsche Zeitung's economics editor Bjoern Finke sees trouble ahead for British Prime Minister Theresa May.

He says she is trapped between a "growing realisation" that Britain depends on continued access to the EU internal market and popular pressure at home to limit freedom of movement.

"May has promised not to cede sovereignty over Britain's borders during the negotiations with Brussels," he says. "If she sticks to that, the British economy will pay a high price for this principled approach."

The paper's world affairs editor, Stefan Kornelius, looks to the rest of the EU, saying Brexit will allow it to tackle projects at the forthcoming Bratislava informal summit that would not have been possible with Britain still on board.

But he also warns against "Schadenfreude" towards Britain, arguing that its political and economic weight means it cannot just be "cut off to bob around somewhere far out in the Atlantic".

Image copyright Rzeczpospolita
Image caption Poland's Rzeczpospolita: "Britain wants isolation"

It interviews Polish diplomats and commentators, among whom the consensus emerges that "these promise to be tough negotiations between London and Brussels. Nobody on the continent wants to grant the British any special privileges."

Rise of populists

Marco Bresolin, the Brussels correspondent of the Italian newspaper La Stampa, highlights European Commission concerns over the rise of populist anti-EU movements "rattling the chancelleries of Europe" since the Brexit vote.

Image copyright La Stampa
Image caption La Stampa: "Rise of populists rattles chancelleries of Europe"

From the strong showing of the populist right in German regional elections to the poll lead of the Freedom Party in Austria's presidential election, senior EU officials think "migration and the quality of national leadership" are to blame.

They fear that anti-EU gains in the autumn referendums and the French and German general elections next year could derail the European project "beyond the point of no-return".

In the Netherlands, NRC Handelsblad's Stephane Alonso also looks ahead to the autumn votes and the Bratislava meeting.

Image copyright NRC Handelsblad
Image caption The Netherlands' NRC Handelsblad: "Back to work after Brexit"

Apart from the likelihood that the "uncertainty over Brexit threatens to drag on for months, which is not good news for Europe", he highlights the need to address concerns over migration and terrorism if Europe is to regain a sense of unity and purpose.

'Tribal mentality'

Not surprisingly, Polish papers mainly focus on recent xenophobic attacks on their compatriots in Britain.

Pundit Pawel Moczydlowski tells Wprost weekly that "Brexit was a kind of a symbol that strengthened Nazi-racist craziness and made it more confident. It meant that British Nazis and racists are not isolated and alone, but enjoy some social support."

Image copyright Wprost
Image caption Poland's Wprost: "Brexit strengthened Nazi-racists"

In Gazeta Wyborcza, philosopher Magdalena Sroda looks at the wider European rise of what she calls "this tribal mentality".

She says it is not about reviving the nation-state, as populists claim, but rather a matter of "political parties and movements strengthening their own power, such as in Germany, Austria, France, and in Poland".

She warns that this kind of rhetoric is an easy and effective political weapon to use - "just like a machete".

'Disintegration of Europe'

The British migration rules debate piques the interest of Romanian commentators in particular.

"Britain will try to control migration through an innovative system, and Romanians will be affected," says Gabriel Mihai in the Evenimentul Zilei daily.

He thinks a system prioritising skills is the most likely outcome.

Pundit Ovidiu Maican in Romania Libera is not convinced that Britain will leave the European Union at all, but has no doubt that a departure would prompt the "disintegration of the EU".

He places the blame squarely on the "incompetence, cowardice and rigidity of some European leaders" in addressing the concerns of voters across the union, comparing them unfavourably to the leaders of the 1980s - 1990s.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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