‘History is on our side’: former Trump aide Steve Bannon in Zurich

After a long fall from grace, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon landed in Zurich on Tuesday speaking publicly for the first time in Europe.

'History is on our side': former Trump aide Steve Bannon in Zurich
Photo: AFP

A controversial figure, Bannon has been rejected not just by Donald Trump but also by the right-wing US news portal Breitbart that he cofounded.

But speaking before an audience of some 1,500 people on Tuesday night – all of whom had been required to previously register – Bannon proved that while he is down, he is far from out.

The same rhetoric remained as the man who headed up Trump’s electoral campaign in its final surreal months shared his ideas on economic nationalism and restrictive immigration policies.

While around 100 people demonstrated against racism outside the hall in Zurich’s Oerlikon where Bannon was speaking, the alt-right figurehead expressed his continuing support of Trump.

He also drew parallels between the election of the business tycoon and the recent success of the disruptive Cinque Stelle movement and nationalist Lega party in Italy.

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

Slamming the faceless establishment “Davos party” made up of elite bankers, lobbyists and economic consultants, Bannon – was who ingloriously hustled out of his own Breitbart company in January – lavished praise on Switzerland.

The former investment banker highlighted the decision by voters in 1992 to snub an initiative that would have seen the country join the European Economic Area, saying this had kick-started the populist rebellion in Europe.

Further flattery saw Bannon praising the former head of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party SVP Christoph Blocher, who coincidentally had announced he was leaving the SVP leadership committee just hours earlier.

“Doctor Blocher,” said Bannon, had been “Trump before there was a Trump.”

Bannon was invited to Zurich by the editor-in-chief of Swiss conservative magazine Die Weltwoche, Roger Köppel.

His planned visit to Zurich was hijacked by a group of Americans in Switzerland who used the occasion to raise funds for gun violence prevention.

Their online fundraising campaign ‘Don't Hate, Donate' was inspired by a 2014 event in Germany in which anti-fascist campaigners hijacked a march by Neo-Nazis to raise money for an anti-extremist organisation.


Trump wants United States-Switzerland trade deal

US President Donald Trump has told Switzerland that the time has come for a Swiss-US free trade agreement, however the US leader was less willing to make a commitment on other Swiss priorities like climate change.

Trump wants United States-Switzerland trade deal

Meeting with Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, US President Trump said he wants to fast-track a deal to strengthen trade relations with the two countries. 

“Let’s see what we can do…. I would like to have an agreement on trade” Trump said during the meeting. 

The Swiss President later told the media that the discussion was “very open” and lasted longer than initially planned. 

Although the US President’s statements are positive for free trade advocates, the American leader made similar statements in May of 2019. 

Attempts to develop a trade agreement between the two countries have been previously stalled due to disagreements mainly related to agriculture. 

The US president also agreed in principle with a Swiss plan to create a ‘humanitarian channel’ through which payments can be made. 

Less willingness on non-trade-related issues

President Sommaruga’s efforts to get a greater degree of US commitment on issues not related to trade were less successful however. 

READ MORE: Did you know? Two-thirds of Switzerland's energy comes from renewables

Sommaruga said urgent action was required on climate change to address a “burning world” which “concerns us all”. 

Trump however remained non-committal, saying only that he was a fan of Switzerland’s use of hydro-power. 


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