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EU official: Anti-immigrant feeling fueling far right

July 18, 2013 at 2:34 PM

VILNIUS, Lithuania, July 18 (UPI) -- Right-wing parties in Europe have grown to their strongest point since World War II, fueled by rising racism and xenophobia, an official said Thursday.

Cecilia Malmstrom, home affairs commissioner for the European Union, discussed the issue during a visit to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, the EUobserver reported. She said she expects more members of the European Parliament from the far right after next May's elections.

European justice ministers held an informal meeting in Vilnius to discuss Syria.

Malmstrom said the far right is capitalizing on opposition to immigration. But she said Europe needs skilled workers from outside its borders, and an anti-immigrant push could actually hurt the economy.

The union's statistical office, Eurostat, says immigrants from outside Europe make up only 4 percent of the population. In 2012, 204,000 residence permits were granted to citizens of the Ukraine, followed by immigrants from the United States at 189,000 and India at 179,000.

The European Commission says immigrants are needed because of the low birthrate in most European countries and the increasing number of elderly residents.

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