Creeping racism and xenophobia in Europe may contribute to an upsurge of far-right MEPs following European Parliament elections next May.
Speaking to reporters in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the EU has never before seen so many far right parties in elected bodies since the Second World War.
“In many countries, xenophobia, populism, [and] racism is on the rise,” she said, noting such political parties will most likely be sending emissaries to the EU’s Brussels-based parliament next year.
“Some of these parties have existed for a long time in the European Union, some are quite new, some are very close to entering into government,” she said.
She described the growing phenomenon as counter productive for a struggling EU economy that is need of skilled workers currently not available in Europe, despite the high unemployment numbers.
Immigrants make up just over 4 percent of the EU population out of a total of some 504 million people, says the EU statistical office Eurostat.
The commission says immigrants are needed to counter declining birth rates and offset the widening age gap between the young and elderly.
Most residence permits in 2012 were issued to Ukraine nationals at around 204,000, followed by US nationals at 189,000, and nationals from India at around 179,000.
The immigrant arrivals and pro-migration policy of the EU are common canon fodder for Britain’s eurosceptic party, UKIP.
On Wednesday, the right-wing party said it expects a strong anti-EU vote in the May EU elections.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage. told Reuters in an interview that it will win most of the British votes in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland next May.
“Lots of eurosceptic groups with varying shades of euroscepticism will get elected from lots of European countries,” said Farage.
But Farage’s UKIP popularity claims do not match an ICM poll out Tuesday in the Guardian newspaper. ICM says his group polled at only 7 percent – down 5 points compared to last month.
Meanwhile, Malmstrom’s concerns on the rise of EU-wide xenophobia come in the context of an informal meeting of EU justice ministers in Vilnius.
Ministers at the morning round-table session discussed the European Commission report on immigration and asylum and the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Syria.
The commission’s fourth annual report on immigration and asylum, published in June, noted a 10 percent increase in 2012 in the number of asylum applications.
The increase is due in part to the Syrian crisis that has seen some 1.8 million seek refuge, mostly in neighbouring countries like Turkey. Around 45,000 have attempted to enter the EU.
For its part, the European Commission announced it would contribute an additional €400 million in humanitarian aid, on top of the €877 million pledged from member states and the EU budget.
“We have from the commission added another €400 million to the neighbouring countries who are doing a fantastic job for 1.8 million Syrians who have left the country,” said Malmstrom.