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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Trump's Germany envoy: I want to 'empower' Europe's right

Richard Grenell criticised for appearing to side with continent's conservative rise

FILE - In this May 8, 2018 file photo US Embassador in Germany, Richard Allen Grenell poses for the media prior to his akkreditation by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Bellevue palace in Berlin, Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, file)
FILE - In this May 8, 2018 file photo US Embassador in Germany, Richard Allen Grenell poses for the media prior to his akkreditation by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Bellevue palace in Berlin, Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, file)

The United States’ ambassador to Germany has courted controversy by saying that he wants to “empower” Europe’s rising right-wing political parties.

Richard Grenell, an appointee of President Donald Trump, made the comments – widely viewed as straying from the US State Department's diplomatic position of neutrality in regard to another country’s political parties – in an interview with far-right news site Breitbart News.

“I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left,” he said.

He attacked criticism of Mr Trump as “the group-think of a very small elitist crowd” and said his election victory in November 2016 had motivated people to challenge the continent’s “political class”.

The envoy only arrived in Berlin last month but has quickly made a series of comments that have made national headlines at home. His latest remarks were condemned by Democratic politicians.

“When I raised concerns to Grenell about politicizing this post, he personally assured me that once he became Ambassador he would stay out of politics,” tweeted Chris Murphy, senator of Connecticut. “This interview is awful – Ambassadors aren't supposed to ‘empower’ any political party overseas.”

The US State Department’s policy is that "each country will be respected uniformly and without bias".

A wave of populism that has swept across Europe in recent years has seen Britain vote to leave the European Union, Austria appoint a far-right leader and Slovenia opt for a right-wing former prime minister amid an array of several near-victories for firebrand politicians across the continent.

Mr Grenell called Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party in 2017, a “rock star”.

The Fox News contributor further angered Germany’s political elite by appearing to threaten the country’s companies doing business with Iran last month after Trump left the Iranian nuclear deal and announced a new swathe of sanctions on the Islamic Republic. He told them to “wind down operations immediately”.

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In the Breitbart interview, he also took aim at Germany’s defence expenditure, accusing German officials of not doing enough, risking the country’s credibility on the world stage.

“(German officials) know you must have a credible threat of military action behind you if you're going to be successful in diplomacy,” Mr Grenell said.

"That's one thing that's missing from the German diplomatic conversation — they right now don't have behind them a credible threat of military action."

Trump nominated him to become his envoy in Berlin in September 2017, with his position confirmed in a May Senate vote.

He is not the first Trump appointee abroad to attract criticism for their comments. Pete Hoekstra, the US ambassador to the Netherlands, was found to be lying when he said he had never claimed there had been “no-go zones” in the Netherlands because of extremist ideologies.