TIME European Union

Concerns in Europe After Far-Right Gains in E.U. Elections

French far-right Front National party president Marine Le Pen reacts at the party's headquarters in Nanterre, outside Paris, on May 25, 2014.
Pierre Andrieu—AFP/Getty Images French far-right National Front party president Marine Le Pen reacts at the party's headquarters in Nanterre, outside Paris, on May 25, 2014.

Although mainstream parties remain in control, significant gains made by Euroskeptic and anti-immigrant party wins in last week's elections to the European Parliament have raised fears of increasing isolationism within the E.U.

Far-right and Euroskeptic party gains across Europe in Sunday’s European Parliament elections have caused alarm among supporters of a closely integrated E.U.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz described the result as “a bad day for the European Union,” while French President François Hollande announced Monday talks immediately labeled a “crisis meeting” by local media.

Henri Malosse, the president of the European Economic and Social Committee, warned that “this may be the last European election if Europe does not change.”

Parties opposed to the E.U. made notable gains in staggered voting that began last Thursday. Marine Le Pen, leader of the French rightist National Front — the big winner in France with 26% of the vote — claimed the result showed that French voters demanded politics “of the French, for the French, with the French.”

“The sovereign people have proclaimed that they want to take back the reins of their destiny into their hands,” she said.

At the same time, the reluctance of Euroskeptic parties to work with the far-right shows that they are careful not to entirely alienate mainstream voters. The fiercely anti-E.U. United Kingdom Independence Party (more commonly known by its initials UKIP) is projected to win the U.K. elections but has already ruled out cooperating with the ultra-right National Front, a British party whose founder recently suggested that the Ebola virus might prove a solution to the immigration problem.

The leader for the Euroskeptic Alternative for Germany, Bernd Lucke, sent out the same message. “We won’t work with right-wing populists,” Lucke told Associated Press.

Far-right parties lost ground in the Netherlands but made significant gains in Denmark and Greece. Simon Usherwood, an expert on European politics at the University of Surrey in England, told CNN that extremist groups stood to benefit in the coming five years.

“They will get time for speaking in debates, the chairmanship of certain committees, which means that they’re going to have much more of a platform on which they can sell their message to voters,” he said.

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