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Can Europe’s economy cope with a Tea Party?

Like the Tea Party movement in the U.S., whose clashes with the political mainstream caused a government shutdown last year, the rise of right-wing, anti-big government parties on this side of the Atlantic could threaten the work of the European Union (EU) and the wider international community, experts and politicians told CNBC.

As the euro zone crisis continues — and widespread public resentment at the austerity measures shows no sign of diminishing – euro-skeptic parties such as the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) and Alternative for Germany (AfD) have seen their share of the vote rise sharply, while support for more extreme right wing parties such as Golden Dawn in Greece or Norway's Progress Party has also risen.

The rise of euro-skeptic and far right parties signal trouble for the fractious 28-country EU and even more so for the 18-nation euro zone. The EU was founded to ensure economic prosperity – and thereby social development and cohesion — across the whole of Europe. Its supporters argue that in a period of economic uncertainty, the EU's help is needed more than ever.

Supporters of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) rip apart the EU flag.Andrej Isakovic | AFP | Getty Images

However, euro-skeptics argue that the EU has become too bureaucratic; meddling in every aspect of a European's life. Furthermore, one of the EU's key tenets, the freedom of movement, is encouraging mass migration.

This rise in anti-European sentiment could come in May when elections are held for the European Parliament. If euro-skeptic parties such as UKIP win big, Europe's political bodies and economy could face the same kind of logjam that was seen in the U.S, analysts and politicians warn.

(Read more: UK election loss may force austerity rethink)

"If people in Europe today feel that there's no alternative to the far-right…then we're in trouble," David Martin, a Scottish MEP on the international trade committee, told CNBC.

"The far right could do very well in the elections…and it would also be very bad news for the European Parliament (EP) if they make the strong gains they are supposed to."

The European Parliament needs strong majorities to have influence the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, and when it comes to setting budgets and new laws, Martin said. But as euro-skeptic parties tended to abstain or vote "no" to any policies deemed even vaguely positive for Europe, the democratic process and function of the parliament itself could quickly come unstuck, he added.

"This would lead to further disillusionment with the parliament as an institution," Martin said, and could help anti-European, right wing parties grow further. More worryingly, although the rise of the right had been cause by the economic crisis, mainstream politicians had yet to provide the solution, Martin noted.

Yves Bertoncini and Valentin Kreilinger, director and research fellow respectively at the think tank Notre Europe-Jacques Delors Institute, forecast that the number of more "mainstream" euroskeptic parties will increase their national share of the vote in the elections.

In research published by the London School of Economics in December, they predicted that UKIP could receive 22 percent of the vote (up from 16.1 percent in 2009) and that the Front National in France would see its votes leap to 21 percent from 6.3 percent in 2009. (

They noted that the numerical increase of "populist forces" posed uncertainties for the European Parliament and warned that it "one thing is for sure: the political game is extremely open at this stage."

Euroskeptic parties have done well in European elections partly due to mainstream voter apathy, disillusionment and an increasing sense of detachment from the European "dream" of political and economic unity.


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