Recently there has been a lot of talk about the rise of anti-European parties, which is more than justified when you consider the results of the European parliamentary elections. However, Europe is continuing to send mixed signals and not all of them are coming from extremists.

Eastern Europe is sending a very different message. The results of elections in the Ukraine were very clear and there is no doubt about its pro-European position. The Republic of Moldova also voted! And the holders of Romanian citizenship turned out in huge numbers — here again, the message was resolutely pro-European. Even in Romania, notwithstanding the contradictory debates in the aftermath of the European elections, everyone has to admit one thing: the anti-establishment parties, România Mare (led by Corneliu Vadim Tudor) and the PPDD (led by Dan Diaconescu) did not succeed in entering the European Parliament.

Over in Poland, it is true that the real surprise of the 25 May elections was the surge in support for the anti-European Congress of the New Right, which scored more than 7 per cent. Having said that, Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform, under whose rule Poland acceded to a sought after place in the European Union, polled close to 33 per cent of the vote, preserving a short lead over the conservative opposition Law and Justice party.

Now if we take a look at Italy — Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement polled more than 20 per cent. But the Council President Matteo Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party was the major winner taking close to 41 per cent of the vote.

The rise of anti-European parties is an undeniable reality. But it is also true that an anti-European group (if it sees the light of day) will at best be able to count on around 20 per cent of seats in the European Parliament. So what can these parties accomplish in Brussels and Strasbourg? “Nothing”, we were told by the unruffled experts in Berlin to whom we posed the question. They will not be able to obstruct the decision-making process. At worst, they will be able to delay it, in the event that some of them are appointed as rapporteurs. But the majority will certainly avoid entrusting the most important reports to them. And that is not all, according to the same sources cited above: the anti-Europeans are lazy. They are not very involved in committees and do not contribute much to reports. They talk a lot to the press, but do little work in the European Parliament.

The anti-Europeans have 20 per cent of the parliament, but they are nowhere to seen in the Commission, or the European Council, where British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán are the only two leaders who may pose problems. And on that topic, can you imagine what a crisis stricken Europe could expect from a Brussels conclave composed of Marine Le Pen, Beppe Grillo, Geert Wilders (who polled less than expected in the Netherlands), and Gábor Vona the leader [of the Hungarian far right party] Jobbik? Of course, this remains an imaginary scenario.

The leaders of centrist formations still have a grip on the reins of power. And they will maintain that grip on condition that they are able to present a project to Europe. It follows that the failure of the European Union, if it is to come to pass, will be the fault of pro- rather than anti-European parties.

It is not disproportionate to say that in many ways the current juncture is similar to the situation of Germany in the period preceding Adolf Hitler’s rise to power: a fragmented legislative assembly with an anti-establishment group that remains a minority, but one that is nonetheless highly motivated. At the time, it was the lack of a project and the majority’s willingness to compromise that led to the outcome that we all know.

Will the EU be forced to change the rules so that, for example, people from the East are considered to be second-class citizens, which is already how they are perceived by anti-Europeans in the West?

Will European leaders continue to seek a consensus? Or will they change the rules of the game to give the anti-Europeans some motive for satisfaction in the hope that they will calm down and act nice? Will the EU be forced to change the rules so that, for example, people from the East are considered to be second-class citizens, which is already how they are perceived by anti-Europeans in the West?

A clear message and one that amounts to a step in the right direction has been issued by Gunther Krichbaum (CDU), the chairman of the Bundestag ’s committee for European affairs: "There is no question of changing the rules. We have treaties and [for that to happen] they would have to be renegotiated. All of the treaties are the result of compromises that were reached after years of negotiations. The Lisbon Treaty, for example, only saw the light of day after ten years of debates. Further negotiations if they are to take place would require another ten years. But in the meantime, the European Union must be governed. And we are all aware of the many challenges we now face."

In the coming years, the European Union will have to deliver on jobs, on energy and industrial policy, and on the question of a future for Europe’s eastern neighbours. If it does not, the road to the fragmentation of Europe and to conflict will be open.

Two days before the elections, I saw the eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which subsequently obtained 7 per cent, on the campaign trail in Berlin. In their bid to gain votes, the party leaders, led by Hamburg University economics professor and party chairman, Bernd Lucke, drove up and down the boulevards of the German capital in a cortege of cars equipped with an arsenal of election paraphernalia. At least three of the cars were {Romanian made] Dacia Logans. If the AfD, which wants a return to the Deutsche mark and protectionism for the national economy, is driving cars that are made in Romania, it is safe to say that on a practical level Europe still has a chance.