Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister who is rapidly becoming a rock star in the scene of European right-wing politics, has joined former Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s organization ‘The Movement.’
The goals of Bannon’s organization are to provide infrastructure and unity to populist/nationalist political parties across Europe; offer expertise, strategy, and aid with polling and elections; and create a forum for dialogue between party leaders. It is headquartered in Brussels, also the de facto capital of the European Union, and began operation with ten staffers.
The populist godfather believes that the future is a “global reaction to centralized government” led by the “working men and women in the world who are just tired of being dictated to by… ‘the party of Davos,’” Bannon’s short-hand for the globalist elite, referring to the meeting place of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
However, so far the former chief strategist to the US president has seen mixed results in his efforts. While he was eagerly welcomed by the leader of France’s National Front, Marine Le Pen, and had an equally cordial meeting with the German Alternative for Deutschland’s Alice Weidel, spokespeople for both parties have denied they have an interest in cooperating. Germany, in particular, where Trump is massively unpopular, seems to have little appetite for Bannon’s involvement.
Others have noted that Bannon may be late to the party, as European populism has already grown to a robust size without him, and he has little experience in European politics. In addition, the individual nationalist parties still reflect their own countries’ unique interests, and often have almost as much separating them from each other as they do in common. An example was the case of Italy, Austria, and Hungary protesting a German immigration crackdown, because it would deflect more migrants back onto them.
Still, such obstacles may be overcome. Salvini recently traveled to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and the two leaders were unequivocal that what they seek is not better management of immigration, but a stop to the invasion of Europe.
Bannon also does have allies, most notably Brexit architect Nigel Farage. He also has the support of Belgian nationalists, UKIP, and has reportedly been deepening ties with other UK politicians such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Salvini, however, is thus far his greatest catch, and may sway others to join as well. The Italian leader has achieved star status for his uncompromising defense of Italy’s sovereignty, (in)famously turning away migrant boats that made it across the Mediterranean, and his hard-line identitarian rhetoric.
Bannon and his allies are planning to put their focus on the elections to the EU parliament in May. With the help of The Movement, Bannon hopes to elect enough Euroskeptic MPs to not take over the chamber, but to obstruct and prevent it from functioning effectively.