Press shows little joy over Swiss takeover

Cartoonists have had a field day swissinfo.ch

Wednesday’s newspapers view the takeover of the national airline Swiss by Germany’s Lufthansa positively but there is no great enthusiasm.

This content was published on March 23, 2005 - 09:00

They say there was no real alternative for the struggling Swiss International Airlines, and do not spare criticism of past mistakes.

Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger wrote that the sale to Lufthansa was the only viable option.

"Managers and board directors are responsible for the end of Swiss civil aviation, but also Swiss voters with their 'no’ to the European Economic Area [in 1992], which worsened the framework conditions for civil aviation," argued the paper.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung commented that crying over spilt milk would not help. It criticised the lack of political guarantees to an end "to the discrimination of Zurich airport", referring to flight restrictions governing the approach over German airspace.

Zurich hub

Swiss government’s approval of the takeover would now be judged less on the sale price but on concrete improvements for Zurich as a hub, commented the newspaper.

The deal is worth up to €310 million (SFr481.8 million) and ends three years of independence for the loss-making Swiss carrier.

According to the Geneva newspaper Le Temps, the deal is fair on a financial level because Lufthansa must now take on the risks attached to Swiss.

It said there were "plenty of uncertainties" for the new subsidiary of the German giant, adding that market forces would decide the future of Swiss.

Only the mass-market Blick appeared to criticise the sale with any real conviction.

Empty promise?

It wrote that the government promised three years ago – when it injected some SFr2 billion into the company – that there was no question that Swiss would be sold.

"How many promises do politicans and captains of industry have to break before they are punished?" its editorialist asked, adding that the deal left a bitter taste in the mouth.

Most papers agreed that the future of Swiss was uncertain, with the Bund of Bern asking what role the airline would play.

It was unclear whether it would benefit from the powerful Lufthansa or would be "degraded to a feeder service for the German airline", said the paper.

The French-language Le Matin did not mince its words, arguing that the deal once and for all shattered any remaining feelings of loyalty to Swiss.

Ill feeling

For many years there has been an ill feeling towards Swiss in the French-speaking part of the country, after the airline was perceived as deserting Geneva airport to concentrate its activities in Zurich.

"After the departure from Cointrin [Geneva airport] to the benefit of "Great Zurich", and after the sale to Germany despite the three billion francs extracted [to save the company] by the barons of the economy, there can be only one commentary... good riddance."

The Tages-Anzeiger was a little more constructive in its thoughts about the future.

"Switzerland will remain on an international footing with Lufthansa. But we are responsible ourselves when it comes to Zurich as a hub," it said.

"[We need] a competitive economy that attracts business people, and attractive tourist offers with unspoiled scenery that fascinate people from all over the world."

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

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