German politicians have called for Donald Trump’s envoy in Berlin to be expelled from the country after he said in an interview that he wanted to “empower” conservative forces throughout Europe.
Ambassador Richard Grenell, who has been in office for less than a month, has caused irritation in Berlin with a series of perceived breaches of diplomatic etiquette.
On Monday the former Fox News contributor further strayed beyond his ambassadorial remit by requesting a short meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu at Berlin’s airport following the Israeli prime minister’s meeting with Angela Merkel.
On 13 June, Grenell will host the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, for lunch at his residence in Berlin’s Dahlem district, another unusual move given that Austria’s own US ambassador, tech entrepreneur Trevor Traina, was only installed in Vienna last month.
A spokesperson for the the US embassy in Berlin said the meeting had come about as a result of a request from the Austrian side.
In Germany, Grenell’s series of unorthodox moves is drawing mounting criticism. Sahra Wagenknecht, co-chair of leftwing party Die Linke, called for the envoy to be recalled to the US.
“If people like US ambassador Richard Grenell believe they can dictate like a lord of the manor who rules in Europe and who doesn’t, they can no longer remain in Germany as a diplomat,” Wagenknecht told Die Welt.
“If the federal government is serious about the democratic sovereignty of our country, it should not invite Grenell for a chat over coffee, but expell him immediately,” the opposition politician added.
The German government on Monday said it has asked Grenell to clarify his comments during his inaugural visit to the foreign ministry on Thursday.
Martin Schulz, the former leader of the Social Democratic party, told German news agency dpa that he thought Grenell was untenable as US ambassador in the long term.
“What this man is doing is unheard of in international diplomacy,” said the former leader of the European parliament, who failed to unseat Angela Merkel at federal elections in Germany last year.
Schulz said that Grenell had acted like the representative of a political movement rather than a country, and punned that next week’s meeting with Austrian leader Kurz, meaning “short” in German, would lead to a shortening of the US envoy’s stint in Berlin.
In the Breitbart interview, Grenell said: “I absolutely want 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.”
Grenell did not voice support for the rightwing populist party Alternative für Deutschland, which has been a vocal critic of Merkel’s refugee policies and is the largest opposition group in the Bundestag. But he did express admiration for Kurz, whose conservative Austrian People’s party governs in a coalition with the far-right FPÖ. “Look, I think Sebastian Kurz is a rock star,” he said. “I’m a big fan.”