Bannon’s Meeting With a Populist European Leader Ends in Trade Clash
(Bloomberg) -- Steve Bannon’s crusade to unify right-wing forces in the European Union before the bloc’s parliamentary elections next year may have hit a speed-bump after a populist firebrand disagreed with his views on trade.
The mastermind of Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory met Czech President Milos Zeman, an early fan of the U.S. leader, this week in Prague. Zeman also welcomed Petr Bystron, a lawmaker for the euroskeptic, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party that is part of Bannon’s push to bring together anti-establishment groups to challenge the EU’s liberal order.
Facing blowback from politicians and media at home for the meeting, Zeman told the Parlamenti Listy website Thursday that Bannon’s take on protectionism could lead to a global economic crisis that would damage the Czech Republic, a small, open economy dependent on exports.
“He asked for an audience, got 30 minutes, and after 30 minutes I told him that I absolutely disagree with his views and I ended the audience,” said Zeman, an economist and former prime minister who’s also a leading supporter in the EU of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The reason why I disagree with his views is because he was defending American trade restrictions.”
After leaving Trump’s White House last year, Bannon has embarked on a European road show from Rome to Budapest to galvanize populist leaders and parties into a loose alliance and help gain a bigger foothold for their policies in the European Parliament.
Zeman, who won a second term in January after waging an anti-refugee campaign, has triggered outrage among some mainstream Czech political parties for endorsing an anti-Muslim party. He didn’t comment to the newspaper on any other parts of his discussion with Bannon or on his plans to mobilize support for nationalists before the May EU Parliament ballot.
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