European elections are poster wars. On the one side of the street in Pasewalk, close to the Polish border, air-brushed candidates stare out from blue back-dropped placards on behalf of the established parties. On the other side, the far-right National Party of Germany (NPD) goes for a stark message and a big exclamation mark.

“Close the Border now!”, says the NPD poster in the small east German community, and someone has added an extra sticker saying “Now!”, to underscore the urgency. The town is a short drive from the Polish port of Szczecin, so Polish commuters have settled there — it has cheaper housing — and some have established companies, and employ dozens of local Germans.

Now the Poles want a say in the running of the town, are standing in local elections and are using the simultaneous European elections to mobilise support for what is essentially a vision of a border-less continent — and the neo-Nazis want them out.

There are similar stories across Europe this week. Immigration has again become one of the burning issues. As the recession hurts some regions harder than others, right-wing protest parties are banging their big bass drums and trying to turn locals against foreigners: the very reversal of the European dream.

“There’s not enough jobs to go round,” says a middle-aged supermarket manager from Lücknitz, down the road from Pasewalk. “If we can’t vote for jobs for Germans, then what’s the point of democracy.”

Despite the death of their charismatic hero, Jörg Haider, Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party is tipped to increase its share of the vote from 6 per cent in 2004 to 17 per cent in the European election, establishing itself once again as the third force in Austrian politics.

That is the power of the European election system, it can bring the marginal to the centre. A shrewd single-issue campaign, accompanied by television advertising, can make the link between European, national and local council elections.