Prior to US Vice-President Mike Pence visiting Brussels and reassuring the EU leadership of US “steadfast and enduring” commitment to the European Union, Trump’s White House Chief Strategist, Steven Bannon met with the top German diplomat in Washington and delivered a different message, according to people familiar with the talks.
Bannon has apparently said to the German ambassador in Washington that he views the EU as a flawed construct and favors conducting relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.
The German government and ambassador to the US, Peter Wittig, declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the talks.
A White House official later confirmed that the meeting had taken place but said the account provided to Reuters was inaccurate. “They only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello,” the official said.
Bannon’s influence on Trump’s administration has caused concerns among EU leaders, who view the new administration with distrust.
Just two years earlier, Bannon has openly supported Euro-skeptic movements across Europe and described it as a “yearning for nationalism by people who don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union.”
In his first interview to European media, Trump himself criticized the EU and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, by saying that other EU members might follow the example of Britain and leave the Union.
After his inauguration in January, Trump has not clearly defined his policy towards the EU, but on his first visit to Brussels, Vice-President Mike Pence said: “President Trump and I look forward to working together with you and the European Union to deepen our political and economic partnership.”
However, this did not end the concerns in European capitals.
“We are worried and we should be worried,” said Thomas Matussek, former German ambassador to the UK and the United Nations.
No one knows anything at the moment about what sort of decisions will be coming out of Washington. But it is clear that the man on top and the people closest to him feel that it’s the nation state that creates identity and not what they see as an amorphous group of countries like the EU.
He told Reuters.
2017 is going to be a crucial year for the EU, as elections in France, Netherlands and Germany will possibly determine the future of the Union. Support for anti-establishment parties across the continent is on the rise, which is a source of concern for EU leadership.
Image: The Telegraph