Bannon looks at Spain – European Council on Foreign Relations

Steve Bannon, the controversial former adviser to US President Donald Trump, has set his eyes on the site of his next battle against what he sees as “globalist ideology” and its main incarnation, the European Union. Taking advantage of his contacts with Nigel Farage in the UK, Marine Le Pen in France and Matteo Salvini in Italy, Bannon created The Movement, a Brussels-based group that aimed to unify far-right anti-European forces.

Spain, a rare exception on the continent in its relative lack of far-right or anti-EU movements, has so far largely escaped the attention of Bannon and the alt-right. Not for long, it seems. On April 10, 2018, Bannon said: “it is very important that there is in Spain a party based on the sovereignty and identity of the Spanish people, and which is ready to defend its borders”. His statement came after a meeting with Rafael Bardají, a former adviser to former Spanish President José María Aznar who now works as a strategist for the far-right Vox party. After Bannon publicly announced his support for the party, Vox asked him for his advice on what he does best: political communication via alternative media and social media, i.e. election engineering based in both big data and micro-targeting.

Santiago Abascal, a former member of a conservative party based in the Basque Country, created Vox in 2013. Despite only winning 46,638 votes (0.2%) in the 2016 general election, Vox now votes 5 % (about 1 million votes, which would mean a significant increase in support). After a very active campaign on social media and a series of rallies across Spain, the party achieved great success a few weeks ago by gathering 9,000 people for a meeting at the Vistalegre bullring in Madrid. If he remains as popular as the polls indicate, Vox will eventually enter the Spanish parliament and, crucially, could make it to the European Parliament next May.

Vox’s main message is that there is a need to defend the Spanish nation, which he sees as threatened by Catalan and Basque nationalists, immigrants and the EU. On October 7, 2018, the party published its “100 measures to keep Spain alive”. His proposals and his message are in line with Le Pen and Salvini, especially on migration and the EU.

Vox now votes at 5%, around 1 million votes, which would mean a significant increase in support

Vox advocates the expulsion of immigrants who have entered Spain illegally to their countries of origin, permanent entry bans for them and a policy of conditioning development aid on countries’ acceptance of repatriated immigrants who have a criminal record. The party is also seeking to strengthen the walls of the Spanish North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla; suspend the Schengen agreement until the EU prevents German or Belgian courts from blocking European arrest warrants against secessionist leaders such as Carles Puigdemont; and strengthen the Spanish Armed Forces to make them more capable and self-sufficient.

Like other European far-right political groups, Vox has made investor and philanthropist George Soros a frequent target of its criticism. Following a reported meeting between Soros and Spanish President Pedro Sánchez in June this year – around the time Sánchez said Spain would provide a safe harbor for the Aquarius, a ship carrying migrants that Italy refused to take in – the party accused Soros of working to promote ‘mass illegal immigration’. Vox also wants the EU to return to the decision-making system of the Nice Treaty (which granted Spain and Poland the status of major countries in the European Council); reduce the EU budget; remove European agencies that interfere with national sovereignty; and abandon supranational and multilateral organizations that it perceives as working against the national interests of the Spain.

Vox also announced that he would be joining The Movement. Although Belgian People’s Party leader Mischaël Modrikamen registered it in Brussels in 2017, the grouping is not expected to be officially launched until January next year. It seems that Le Pen’s national rally will also follow Salvini’s League and Georgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy into the Movement.

Spain now has a team in Bannon’s fledgling anti-European league.

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