Ska Keller, a German Member of the European Parliament and the Greens candidate to replace Jean-Claude Juncker once he steps down as European Commission president, warned against falling into the trap of the far-right in the run-up to looming elections, saying such groups on the extreme end of the political spectrum serve only to polarize society.
Speaking to EFE, Keller said it was important not to overstate the far-right message during the campaign trail, something she had seen before in her native Germany, where she belongs to the Alliance 90/The Greens, which forms part of the European Green Party the bloc's legislative arm.
"In the past national elections we could often see that the only topic everyone talked about was the right-wing extremists, right-wing populists, then it turned out that they didn't win that much," Keller said. "So I think it is time we looked at other topics, or else we're just playing the game of the far-right," she added.
Born in 1981, Keller entered the world of activism at just 17, when she joined an anti-fascist group when neo-Nazis started putting migrants in her hometown in the spotlight.
She lamented that the topic of immigration was used for political furtherance by parties on the right, including in Spain, where a coalition of conservatives and liberals recently formed with the support of a far-right party in the regional parliament in Andalusia.
Keller described that as a "dangerous path."
"Overall, the number of immigrants coming to the European Union has really reduced, I think Spain is an exception, and in Spain, now that the conservatives are in opposition, that is the one topic that they keep talking to," she said.
"They are trying to create a polarization based on identity and based on border policies and I think this is exactly the wrong way because like this you strengthen the far-right and you legitimize them," she added.
At 27, Keller was elected as an MEP. Ten years, later, as the co-leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, she has once again decided to run for the head of the Commission, as she did once before in 2014.
Returning to the topic of immigration, she said that the increased migrant arrivals did not boost far-right support.
"If you look at the numbers, you see that where there's a lot of immigration, the far-right has very little support. In areas where you have no immigration whatsoever, there you have a lot of support," she said.
She said far-right support often fed off social marginalization.
Far-right parties, she said, distracted from real issues that needed tackling across the EU, such as homelessness and the housing crisis.