President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon’s plans to launch a foundation aimed at supporting populist and nationalist causes in Europe has triggered a sharp repose from Germany’s establishment politicians and the country’s mainstream media. 

“German politicians want to aggressively counter US right-wing populist Steve Bannon’s plans to support like-minded parties in the [2019] European election,” reported German weekly Der Spiegel.

We should not “be afraid of nationalist campaigns with which Mr. Bannon would like to force Europe to its knees,” declared Michael Roth, Germany’s Minister of State for Europe and member of the left-wing Social Democratic Party (SPD).

“We need to deprive the populists of fertile ground across Europe,” said Carsten Schneider, head of the SPD parliamentary group.

Bannon’s plans “need to be taken seriously,” said Florian Hahn, speaker for Merkel-led Christian conservative CDU-CSU parliamentary group.

“German lawmakers called the plans by the former adviser to the US president to influence the 2019 European elections “a frontal attack on the EU,”” Germany’s state-run DW News reported.

“German politicians are cautioning not to take the threat lighty,” said the German business newspaper Handesblatt.

German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost reported Steve Bennon’s plans to unite anti-establishment parties across Europe:

Bannon plans to setup a foundation called ‘The Movement.’ He wants to connect Europe’s right-wing populist groups with Freedom Caucus, a group close to US President Trump. It may operate out of Brussels. Ten employees may initially (run the operation).

Bannon describes European election scheduled for May 2019 as the first serious showdown between the populism and the elites in Europe: “It is very important moment for Europe,” the 64-year-old told the news service. Bannon sees German Chancellor Merkel as the perfect antagonist to unleash a new dynamic in Europe. Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are “vulnerable figureheads of the establishment” in Europe. Their vision of a united continent will be put to test in the next year’s election, he said.  [Translation by the author]

“German parties alarmed over The Movement,” reported the German daily Die Welt.

“Bannon plans a European revolt,” said the headline in the Berlin-based daily Tageszeitung.

Bannon has shown his plan to the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, members of Poland’s ruling party PiS, and Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s newly-formed party ‘Rassemblement National’, German newspaper Die Welt claims.

German weekly Die Zeit explained why the former White House chief strategist poses such a serious challenge to the EU establishment:

Bannon plans to created a “right-wing populist super group” in the European parliament that could muster the strength of up to one-third of the parliamentarians after the 2019 [EU] election. A united bloc of this size could seriously disrupt the parliamentary process and give Bannon a huge influence over the [European] populist movement. [Translation by the author]

It is too early to judge the impact of Bannon’s proposed initiative. In 2014, he launched Breitbart London to help the pro-Brexit ‘Leave Campaign.’ Nigel Farage and other leading Leave-campaigners have acknowledged the role played the news outlet’s London-edition in making a public case for Brexit. Shortly after the 2016 US presidential election there was much media speculation over Breitbart’s plans to launch a French or a German edition. Those plans have not yet materialized.

Bannon’s initiative may not directly impact the electoral politics in Germany. According to Die Welt, leadership of the right-wing AfD party has declined assistance from Bannon’s foundation in the upcoming EU election. The AfD party co-chair Alice Weidel, however told the newspaper that “Steve Bannon’s plans sounded very exciting and ambitious.”

Germany’s Die Zeit is, however, correct in assessing the ‘disruptive’ power of a pan-European alliance on the floor of the EU parliament. So far, nationalist and anti-EU parties in the EU parliament are divided into various parliamentary groups such as the European People’s Party (EPP), Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), and European Conservative and Reformists (ECR). Additionally, Bannon wants to rope in left-wing populist parties like Italy’s Movimento 5 Stelle to this anti-establishment alliance. A realignment of anti-establishment forces ahead of the next year’s European elections have the potential of drastically changing the European political landscape.


[Cover image via YouTube]