Europe News

Right wing in Europe could bring 'turmoil'

European leaders have joined forces to warn of the rise of right-wing political movements on the continent, amid fears of "unrest and political turmoil" in the region if their growth goes unchecked.

Speaking in her traditional New Year's address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against right-wing populism and criticized recent anti-Islamic protests in the country, saying they were driven by prejudice and a hatred of foreigners.

Golden Dawn flags at a rally in Athens
Milos Bicanski | Getty Images Europe | Getty Images

And Merkel is not the only leader aware of rise of the right among voters across Europe. Merkel's counterparts in France and Italy have both made recent comments about the unpalatable prominence of populist movements in their countries.

In their new year addresses, French President Francois Hollande attacked what he called "dangerous" populist movements, and Giorgio Napolitano, the 89 year-old outgoing Italian President, warned there was "nothing more unrealistic or dangerous" than calls for Italy to leave the euro zone.

As well as opposing immigration, many of these movements also campaign against the European Union (EU) and the single currency union, the euro zone.

Examples include the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), both of which have positioned themselves as euroskeptic alternatives to the mainstream parties.

But more extremist right-wing groups are also gaining in popularity in some countries, with Golden Dawn in Greece getting a boost from anger at the country's rising unemployment and tough austerity policies, implemented as part of economic reforms. The party is often described as neo-Nazi, although it rejects this label.

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In countries like France, where growth remains anaemic, the political elite could face real problems from parties like the National Front, Howard Goldring, managing director of Delmore Asset Management, warned.

"The National Front is doing quite well and they are playing on popular fears (over immigration and the economy)," he told CNBC on Friday. "It's clear that France really has problems and the economy could slow down further and, therefore, you can expect more unrest and political turmoil."

The party's current leader, Marine Le Pen, has tried to clean up the party's image after taking over from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who made several anti-Semitic comments during his tenure of the party.

Anti-politics movements?

It comes amid growing concerns about Europe's tentative economic recovery. Euro zone gross domestic product (GDP) grew by just 0.2 percent in the third quarter, on the previous quarter, and inflation remained subdued at 0.3 percent in November on the back of a lower oil price.

Among European politicians' top worries is that the economic situation could deteriorate, pushing more discontented voters into the arms of the anti-European parties.

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In Greece, for example, issues like high unemployment (around 50 percent among those age 15-24) have prompted more support not only for the left-wing Syriza party, but also for Golden Dawn, which is described by many as neo-Nazi, although the party rejects this label.

Meanwhile in Italy -- among the most euroskeptic European countries, according to the European Commission's latest barometer -- traditionally center-right voters are being pushed further right, to parties like Lega Nord.

"Many former right-of-centre voters, frustrated with the leader of the right-of-centre sector (former Prime Minister) Silvio Berlusconi, will turn to (the) Lega Nord," Galietti, the head of Rome-based political consultancy Policy Sonar, told CNBC Friday.

While political policy analyst Francesco Galietti added that "the sanctity of the European experiment and its currency, the euro," was long gone in Italy.

The UKIP conundrum

The growing popularity of right-wing political groups could well be laid bare in national elections taking place in Greece and the U.K. later this year.

Parties like the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), which advocate leaving the European Union and reigning in immigration, have got a boost as voters become skeptical of the benefits of Europe's political and economic union.

The appeal of anti-European policies has not escaped U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron's attention; he has promised a referendum on membership of the EU if his Conservative Party wins another term in office after elections in May.

Although UKIP has done well in several local elections in 2014, gaining their first two seats in parliament, some political analysts expect the party's success to be a flash in the pan.

Delmore Asset Management's Goldring said the results of the general election were uncertain, however.

"A lot of the polling statistics would suggest that support for UKIP is higher than for the Green party and higher than for the Liberal Democrats (who are currently in a coalition government with the Conservative party)," he said. "Therefore you're facing a very difficult result, as far as the election is concerned."

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt. Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld