Bannon eyes new European political order

"The individual parties throughout Europe are 'woke'," says Mr Stephen Bannon.
"The individual parties throughout Europe are 'woke'," says Mr Stephen Bannon.

BRUSSELS • Mr Stephen Bannon helped upend the political order in the United States before falling out with President Donald Trump. Now he is looking to recreate his former glories in Europe.

The former Trump strategist is planning a roadshow across half a dozen European countries to galvanise populist leaders and parties into a loose alliance and help gain a bigger foothold for their policies in the European Parliament.

The Brussels-based group dubbed The Movement and founded by Belgian politician Mischael Modrikamen plans to highlight the importance of national sovereignty, stronger borders, greater limits on migration and fighting against radical Islam, all as a means to boost nationalist parties in parliamentary polls next May.

The push to unite populist forces gives urgency to concerns among some European Union leaders, like French President Emmanuel Macron, at the looming clash of values over the bloc's future direction.

EU leaders who met in the Austrian city of Salzburg this week discussed two of the bloc's existential threats, the migration crisis and Brexit, both of which serve as rallying cries for nationalists.

"The individual parties throughout Europe are 'woke'," Mr Bannon said in an interview last week, adding that he wants enough like-minded candidates to win seats in the EU Parliament to act as a block on pro-EU groups.

"Europe's going to see an intensity and focus among the voters and the media that what is happening is basically going to be a continent-wide presidential election."

Political forces are aligning ahead of a clash over fundamental principles that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned questions the EU's future cohesion.

Britain's exit from the bloc in March, Russian aggression, democratic backsliding in eastern Europe and Mr Trump's "America First" agenda are all tugging at the foundation of the European project.

So far, Mr Matteo Salvini's anti-immigrant League party and the far-right Brothers of Italy are the only groups that have officially aligned themselves with The Movement, which will offer like-minded parties - free of charge - polling, data analytics, messaging and so-called war room services.

Mr Bannon and Mr Modrikamen are seeking to hold a founding convention in Brussels in late November, with an eventual plan to have allies in all 27 EU countries.

They doubt nationalist parties will gain a majority of seats in the EU Parliament, but they would like at least a third of the seats to be able to "command by negation", said Mr Bannon, letting them disrupt integrationist policies.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2018, with the headline 'Bannon eyes new European political order'. Print Edition | Subscribe