In the end of July 2018, Steve Bannon made headlines when he announced “to boost populist parties enough to create a right-wing ‘supergroup’ following EU Parliamentary elections next May.”1 As the official vehicle for the project an already existing private foundation called “The Movement / Le Movement” was chosen, founded on January 9, 2017, by the Belgian far-right politician and lawyer Mischaël Modrikamen, his wife Yasmine Dehaene-Modrikamen and Laure Ferrari, an aide to Nigel Farage.2 The Brussels-based organization is to be staffed with 10 full-time employees in the forthcoming months, who will preliminarily focus on data analyses and surveys.3 According to Bannon the number might grow to 25, depending on the outcome of the 2019 European parliamentary elections.“4
"Bannon told Reuters The Movement will serve as a ‘clearing house’ in Brussels, at the heart of the EU, for the ‘populist, nationalist movement in Europe’, with the objective of boosting the anti-EU presence in the European Parliament..."5
The populist bloc could gather up to a third of the 705 deputies' seats in the European Parliament in next year’s European election.4 “‘Everybody agrees that next May is hugely important, that this is the real first continent-wide face-off between populism and the party of Davos,’ he said, referring to the yearly economic summit of heads of state and business in the Swiss mountain resort.”1 "Right-wing populist nationalism is what will happen. That's what will govern," he told the Daily Beast. "You're going to have individual nation states with their own identities, their own borders.”
That Bannon has made the right alliances to form such an EU parliamentary supergroup can be seen on the attached network map. Bannon has strong ties to Nigel Farage, co-leader of the right-wing, Euro-sceptic European parliamentary group Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), of which politicians of UKIP, AfD, Débout la France, and the Five Star Movement are members. AfD’s Beatrix von Storch became a member of the EFDD in April 2016, forestalling her imminent expulsion from the European Conservatives and Reformists group, and remained active in the EFDD until her entry into the Bundestag in September 2017.
Bannon's contact to Matteo Salvini constitutes a direct link to another important right-wing European parliamentary group, Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), which gathers MEPs from Rassemblement National, FPÖ, The League, and FPÖ. Via his DHI network, Bannon should have also access to contacts in the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), such as Nirj Deva.
There is something not quite right with Bannon's and/or Mischaël Modrikamen’s version/s of the story around the foundation of “The Movement.” This is shown by the manifold connections between its initial founders (Mischaël Modrikamen, Yasmine Dehaene-Modrikamen, Laure Ferrari) and Nigel Farage. Farage was in close contact with Bannon and the Movement’s founders already several years before the announcement of The Movement in July 2018.
Modrikamen explained the background of The Movement in a recent video interview.6
According to his description the organisation was founded in the beginning of last year as a side-project of the Belgian Parti Populaire to "unite the populist forces in Europe." “Its goals, stated in a constitution lodged with Belgian authorities, were ‘to promote the rule of law, free enterprise, national sovereignty, effective national borders, popular consultation, the fight against radical Islam, a scientific and not dogmatic approach to climatic phenomena and the defense of Israel as a sovereign state on its historic land.’”7 But instead of embarking on these challenging goals, the project with an initial capital of a mere 2500 Euro, and registered at Modrikamen’s home address, was subsequently “put on ice”. Modrikamen stated, at the time he had sent a memo to likeminded parties in Europe and the United States, but it was not until sometime in July 2018 that Bannon got back in touch.5 The contact had been established by Nigel Farage, who told Modrikamen that Bannon would like to meet him. At a luncheon in London on July 15,5 Modrikamen stated it “clicked”, that they “absolutely shared the same convictions […] to give back to the whole world the sovereignty of the people and to be the voice of their voice, such as Trump is the voice of the ordinary man in the United States…”
The luncheon was attended by 8 or 9 persons, amongst them Nigel Farage, Steve Bannon, Raheem Kassam, Yasmine Dehaene-Modrikamen, Mischaël Modrikamen and Laure Ferrari. Raheem Kassam, former senior advisor of Nigel Farage, was hired by Bannon in 2014 to set up the Breitbart London office8 , together with James Delingpole. Kassam left Breitbart in May 2018. “As for what he’ll do next, Kassam said he’s joined the advisory board for ISSEP9 , the political training school for right-wing leaders being launched by Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of Front National leader Marine Le Pen. Its website lists him as a ‘member of the scientific council.’”10
Another luncheon guest, the French Laure Ferrari (*1979) made acquaintance with then leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, in 2007, while working as a waitress in Strasbourg, which led her to start a political career.11 Subsequently she was made director of public relations for the British delegation of the right-wing European parliamentary group Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) (2009-2014), which later became the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group, co-chaired by Nigel Farage.11 Up from 2014 Ferrari became head of the the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE), an Eurosceptic think tank, attached to the Alliance for Direct Democracy (ADDE), a Brussels-based non-profit organization founded by UKIP affiliates in 2015.12
The Executive Director of ADDE, as well as contact person on the ADDE website is Yasmine Dehaene-Modrikamen, also amongst the initial founders of The Movement.13 The IDDE was accused in 2017 of having illegally diverted public money to the benefits of UKIP. UKIP was under investigation for having received over £400,000 in donations from the think tank prior to the UK General Election and the Brexit referendum.14 Both projects, the ADDE and the IDDE, seem to have become defunct with the arising legal difficulties. When the European Parliament stopped funding the IDDE, Ferrari moved to Farage’s home for a while in February 2017.14 In November 2017, the European Parliament initiated an investigation in regards to a possible breach of its financing rules, and subsequently Modrikamen's offices were raided “as part of a probe of funding linked to UKIP, though he and all those involved reject any wrongdoing.”7 Modrikamen seems to have also established good Russian contacts. He had visited the Russian parliament in 2015 and subsequently “called for an end to sanctions against Moscow imposed for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and for its support of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. And he said Europeans and the United States should be working on common ground with Russia, notably in combating violent Islamist movements.”15
In November 2018, The Guardian, published a 25-minutes video, shedding some more light on the The Movement.16
In the meantime Bannon has expanded the radius of the Movement, not only focusing on the American and European sphere of influence. The Spanish newspaper ABC reported in February 2019 that Bannon elected the son of Jair Bolsonaro, Eduardo Bolsonaro, as leader of The Movement in Latin America.17
- 1 a b Nico Hines, "Inside Bannon’s Plan to Hijack Europe for the Far-Right," Daily Beast, August 2, 2108, https://www.thedailybeast.com/inside-bannons-plan-to-hijack-europe-for-the-far-right.
- 2“Foundation Deed of The Movement / Le Movement,” Belgische Federale Overheidsdiensten, January 9, 2017, www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/tsv_pdf/2017/01/11/17301031.pdf.
- 3“Entscheidender EU-Gipfel zu Brexit,” ORF, April 10, 2019, https://tvthek.orf.at/profile/ZIB-24/1225/ZIB-24/13984885.
- 4 a b “Steve Bannon Plans Brussels-Based Foundation ‘The Movement’ for EU Far-Right,” Deutsche Welle, July 21, 2018, https://www.dw.com/en/steve-bannon-plans-brussels-based-foundation-the-movement-for-eu-far-right/a-44774972.
- 5 a b c Alastair Macdonald, "Belgian lawyer launches Trump-inspired anti-EU movement," Business Insider, July 24, 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20191214124210/https://www.businessinsider.com/r-belgian-lawyer-launches-trump-inspired-anti-eu-movement-2018-7.
- 6"Bannon et Modrikamen lancent The Movement," The People TV on YouTube, July 27, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o38LW3BoIV0.
- 7 a b https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2018/07/24/world/europe/24reuters-eu-parliament-bannon.html.
- 8Breitbart London, https://www.breitbart.com/london/.
- 9Institut de sciences sociales, économiques et politiques, https://www.issep.fr/les-membres/.
- 10Rosie Gray, "Breitbart's Raheem Kassam Is Out," The Atlantic, May 23, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/a-top-bannon-ally-leaves-_breitbart_/561050/.
- 11 a b Isabelle Gerretson, "Who is Laure Ferrari, the French woman living with Nigel Farage?," International Business Times, February 6, 2017, https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/who-laure-ferrari-french-woman-living-nigel-farage-1605007.
- 12Alliance for Direct Democracy, http://www.addeurope.org/; member list on archived version of the website https://web.archive.org/web/20160317195527/http://addeurope.org/about-us/members.
- 13"How to reach us," ADDE, https://web.archive.org/web/20180701102350/http://www.addeurope.org/how-to-rearch-us/.
- 14 a b Shehab Khan, “Nigel Farage Sharing £4 Million House with Female French Politician,” Independent, February 5, 2017, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nigel-farage-laure-ferrari-ukip-sahring-secret-house-french-politician-a7563426.html.
- 15Alastair Macdonald, “Bannon’s EU Project Eyes Government Allies,” Reuters, July 25, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-parliament-bannon/bannons-eu-project-eyes-government-allies-idUSKBN1KF2BN.
- 16"How Steve Bannon's far-right 'Movement' stalled in Europe," The Guardian on Youtube, November 21, 2018, https://youtu.be/SX2twSMMdHs.
- 17"Bannon elige al hijo de Bolsonaro como líder de El Movimiento en Iberoamérica," ABC, 1 February 2019, https://www.abc.es/internacional/abci-bannon-elige-hijo-bolsonaro-como-lider-movimiento-iberoamerica-201902012243_noticia.html#ns_campaign=rrss-inducido&ns_mchannel=abc-es&ns_source=fb&ns_linkname=noticia-foto&ns_fee=0.