By Susy Hodges
Opinion polls showed that immigration was the biggest issue for voters across Europe, followed by the economy and climate change.
Nationalist EU-sceptic parties have tapped into this concern and are widely forecast to do well in these elections, including in the three biggest countries of the euro zone: Germany, France and Italy.
Rising threats to EU integration
Several analysts in Germany were predicting losses for all 3 parties that make up Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition. Some said the results of the EU elections could even bring about a premature end to the coalition.
Across in France, President Emmanuel Macron is strongly in favour of more EU integration, but opinion polls showed the Euro-sceptic National Rally party could narrowly win more support than Macron’s own party.
A further threat to EU integration comes from Italy’s deputy premier Matteo Salvini. His populist, anti-immigration League party is tipped to win more than 30 percent of the vote.
Salvini is trying to create a powerful bloc in the European parliament which he is calling the European Alliance for People and Nations. On May 18th he organized a campaign rally in Italy that was attended by 12 right-wing nationalist parties from across Europe.
On the left, some of the smaller parties like the European Greens are hoping to increase their share of the vote in the wake of widespread climate change protests in recent weeks.
Britain was not supposed to be taking part in the EU elections, but political deadlock over an exit deal with the EU has delayed Brexit.
As a result Britons were called to the polls on Thursday. A day later, Prime Minister Teresa May announced she was stepping down on June 7th because of the failure by her Conservative government to deliver Brexit.
Opinion polls showed that the newly-formed Brexit Party was likely to gain the most votes, with the Conservative only in 4th place.
In every European parliament so far, the centre-right and centre-left parties have been the dominant power, holding more than 50 percent of the seats.
But if the opinion polls prove accurate, these establishment parties are expected to suffer across the EU, both at the hands of the nationalist/populist parties as well as smaller groupings on the left.
The result is likely to be a more fragmented European parliament that will put a potential brake on collective action in economic and foreign policy. In more general terms, the result seems certain to put on ice plans for further EU integration.