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20th Jan 2019

Trump's new envoy to Germany under fire

  • Berlin wants the new US ambassador to Germany to clarify remarks (Photo: Merlijn Hoek)

The former president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz has suggested the new US ambassador to Germany returned to the United States.

Schulz told the German press agency, DPA, on Monday (4 June) that comments made by US ambassador Richard Grenell in an interview with Breitbart news to empower conservatives in Europe were unacceptable.

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Schulz said he hoped a Grenell plan to dine with Austria's chancellor Sebastian Kurz next week would follow with "a short stay of Mr. Grenell in his function as ambassador in Germany."

Grenell told Breitbart, a US-based online paper, over the weekend that he wanted "to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders".

"I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left," said the former Fox News contributor.

Breitbart News is a conservative news outlet once broadly referred to as a springboard for the alt-right by co-founder Steven Bannon, who himself has been touring Europe to drum up support for populist leaders like Hungary's Victor Orban.

The comments have been seen by some as a breach of diplomatic protocol, given that ambassadors are supposed to steer clear of local and regional politics.

Anthony Gardner, the former US ambassador to the European Union, described them as scandalous, noting that US ambassadors should not be empowering any political parties.

Lars Klingbeil, the secretary-general of Germany's Social Democratic party, in a tweet, also told Grenell to refrain from interfering in the politics of the host country.

Grenell has been in the job less than a month.

He defended his remarks on Twitter, saying he stands by his comments and that any idea he would endorse candidates or parties "is ridiculous".

Germany's foreign ministry has demanded Grenell clarify his views during a first official visit later this week.

Meanwhile, Grenell has also, since the interview, invited Austria's chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose government is in coalition with the right-wing populist FPO party, to dine together next week.

"I think Sebastian Kurz is a rock star. I'm a big fan," said Grenell.

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