Geopolitics

Meet Mischaël Modrikamen: Steve Bannon’s Man In Europe

'Italy is our starting point, and Salvini the model,' says this Belgian politician bringing the populists of Europe under one roof with the help of Donald Trump's former right-hand man.

Belgian politician Mischaël Modrikamen
Belgian politician Mischaël Modrikamen
Marco Bresolin

BRUSSELS — Southeast of the palaces of the European quarter, about 10 kilometers from the center of Brussels, is a luxurious red-brick building surrounded by green. Located in Watermael-Boitsfort, the wealthiest of the capital region's 19 municipal districts that form the Brussels-Capital Region, this structure is the home of a conservative Belgian politician. But its importance stretches well beyond the country's borders.

It is here, 42 Avenue du Houx, that The MovementSteve Bannon"s political project to unite the all European nationalists under one roof — plans to have its base of operations. "But it won't be a political party," says Mischaël Modrikamen, the man who actually lives in the building. "The movement will be a sort of club, open to all populist leaders."

A club with decidedly comfortable trappings. There's a pool outside, dogs that follow the passing gardener, and chestnuts falling from the trees.

Modrikamen is a politician and lawyer by trade. He first dropped into the media spotlight 10 years ago when he defended shareholders of Fortis Bank after they'd been overwhelmed by the subprime mortgage crisis. Today, he's Bannon's right-hand-man in Europe — even though the two only met for the first time July.

"But from the first moment, there was a spark," Modrikamen recalls with a twinkle in his eyes.

More sovereignty for the nations, border control, immigration limits and a fight against radical Islam.

The UK's Nigel Farrage had organized the lunch in London where they met, and on that day the international nationalists got their start. From a technical standpoint, The Movement existed before that. Modrikamen incorporated it as a foundation in January 2017, with members such as Laure Ferrari, a French politician linked to Farage, and Yasmine Dehaene, the lawyer's wife. It was a legal instrument, in other words, that Modrikamen was then able to place in Bannon's hands. The next step was a European recruitment tour.

In early September, Modrikamen went to Italy to welcome Matteo Salvini to the club. He returned the following weekend, still in the company of Donald Trump's ex-guru, to welcome Giorgia Meloni. "Italy is our starting point, and Salvini is a model for many," the lawyer explains. "We will certainly also have contact with the 5 Star Movement. It's true that we come from the right. But we have many points in common with them, and they're aligned with Farage."

On September 18, another important figure was added to the ranks: Louis Aliot, the French European Parliament member and life partner of Marine Le Pen, announced that the Rassemblement National (ex National Front) will enter the club. "The moment has come to unite our strengths," says Modrikamen, speaking in a conference room in his home. "We have to create an international populist organization with four to five common principals." They are: "More sovereignty for the nations, border control, immigration limits and a fight against radical Islam. We will start in Europe, but our objective is to create a global club, from Canada to Asia."​​​

Bannon, Salvini, and Modrikamen after a meeting — Photo: Mischaël Modrikamen's official Facebook page

The membership will be open "to populist leaders who are already part of other political families, like Viktor Orban. We don't ask for exclusivity." And the money? "It makes me laugh when people bring up Russia. We are financed by private donations."

The first big finish line is the European Parliament elections next spring. The movement wants to push its affiliates to establish a unified group, leaving them the freedom to organize themselves as they best believe. "We will provide the expertise," says the lawyer. "We want to give the movement tools for the elections. Polling services, analysis of big data, social media strategies."

They don't play to participate, but to win: "Opposition is not enough; you have to enter the control room." The road to follow? "The Austrian model. With the right's Kurz, Seehofer, or even Boris Johnson, the room for dialogue is there."

We will provide the expertise.

The Movement's base of operations will be right here in this villa, south of Brussels, that already hosts Modrikamen's legal offices and the seat of the "Popular Party" that he founded in 2009. From where, in editor's clothes, he also runs the daily newspaper Le Peuple.

"We have 1,200 meters squared at our disposition, which is great," he says, gesturing at the park that surrounds the house. In the initial phase, The Movement will employ 10-15 people, with plans to grow.

Under an enormous painting of Winston Churchhill that stands in the hallway of the villa, everyone is ready for the challenge. "The pro-immigration global elites are already organized. Now we need to do the same and unite ourselves as well. Because we"—he smiles as he cuts a croissant with a knife—"We are the spokesmen for the people."

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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