The Brief – Lying, cheating…

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter

An ‘agent provocateur’ has entered European politics, and his name is Steve Bannon.

Bannon was the executive chairman of alt-right website Breitbart News, famous for its conspiracy theories and xenophobic content.

Then he was the wizard behind Donald Trump’s election campaign, which earned him the post of Chief Strategist, a new position in the White House, until his boss dumped him after seven months in office. Since Breitbart axed him in January over quotes attributed to Bannon in Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and the Fury’, ‘Sloppy Steve’ has been a man for hire.

Vanity Fair dubbed him “the populist carpetbagger” and “the unkempt Svengali of the far-right”. Unfazed, Bannon just hopped across the Atlantic.

The alt-right’s rock star is now on a European tour, having made much-noticed appearances in the Italian elections, where he seems to be engineering a coalition between the 5-Star Movement and the Northern League of Matteo Salvini.

He went on to share the stage with Marine Le Pen in France, in an effort to give her – and the French far-right – its second wind.

Bannon also made a stopover in Switzerland.

“The populist wave in Europe is not over: it’s just getting started. History is on our side,” Bannon told a mostly male audience, according to Swiss daily NZZ.

“What I’ve learned is that you’re part of a worldwide movement that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than Hungary — bigger than all of it. And history is on our side,” Bannon said in the French city of Lille, when he met Le Pen.

That all sounds like the Led Zeppelin song “Your time is gonna come”…

Bannon assured his European audiences that he has big plans ahead — including a desire to help spread far-right messages across the continent on platforms similar to Breitbart.

“Whether I do it or a local entrepreneur does it, there are going to be these populist nationalist news sites that pop up in the next year online. That will only take these things to the next level,” Bannon told the New York Times.

What next? Maybe the Hungarian parliamentary elections on 8 April?  People with knowledge of Bannon’s itinerary suggested that he might meet Viktor Orbán.

Bannon declined to say whether or not he would, only saying that he admired Orbán as a “hero” and “the most significant guy at the scene right now”.

Just days ahead of the Italian elections, Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Italy’s post-fascist Fratelli d’Italia party, part of Berlusconi’s coalition including Lega Nord, took her campaign to Budapest, where she posed for a selfie with Orbán.

What next, indeed? You ain’t seen nothing yet…

The Roundup

In Strasbourg, EU trade tsar Cecilia Malmström was backed to the hilt by MEPs to respond to Donald Trump’s steel and aluminium tariffs. The latest leader to address the EU assembly, Portugal’s Antonio Costa, warned the eurozone still needs a lot of work.

A quarter of MEPs voted against the EU executive’s list of priority energy projects, warning that it is too heavily geared towards gas infrastructure. New research shows that many new diesel-powered cars still manage to escape low emission zones and diesel bans in Europe’s cities.

Brussels’ regional government will take the Commission to court over its decision to reauthorise glyphosate. A new report says that Brexit poses “serious challenges” to the UK’s national health service.

Austria’s plans for its six-month-long EU presidency include more than just immigration. Current presidency holder Bulgaria has reacted to disturbing statements by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Europe’s arms trade continues to grow.

Europe’s response to America’s innovation centre, DARPA, which has helped bring GPS, stealth technology, driverless cars and even the internet itself to fruition, is nearly ready for take-off.

Finally, fashionistas can rejoice. The EU’s highest court has struck a blow for sartorial values by withdrawing design protection for Crocs, the most divisive of footwear.

Look out for…

This month’s Strasbourg plenary wraps up tomorrow. The full agenda is available here.

Views are the author’s

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