ROME — Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon declared Saturday that far-right “patriots” are the “new elite” of Europe as he brought his push for a trans-national, anti-European Union drive to Italy.

The ex-aide to President Trump addressed a forum in Rome organized by a small far-right Italian opposition party.

Bannon was asked if there should be a new “elite” in growing, far-right populist movements.

His reply? The “new elite in this populist movement are the patriots” in society.

He heaped praised on populist leaders, pitting sovereignty movements against Brussels-based European Union influence on the continent.

Among the models he cited was one in Italy’s 6-month-old populist government, which includes hard-line Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the right-wing, anti-migrant League party.

Salvini, who addressed the forum earlier Saturday, said the far-right political spectrum includes “the true defenders of European values.”

The Italian, who is also a deputy premier, said the European Parliament elections in May across the continent offer right-wingers “the occasion to send a force into government in Europe that’s not socialist.”

Bannon, in his comments, encouraged Italy’s populists to push their sovereignty-focused agenda to counter EU policies. He is working to help form a united transnational front to push politics in Europe far to the right.

British parents Tom Evans and Kate James were honored at the forum for their unsuccessful legal battle to keep their toddler son, Alfie Evans, on life support in a British hospital. Far-right figures had focused on the case as an example of the wishes of one family against a “socialist” state.

The 23-month-old child died in April after British judges agreed with doctors that more treatment was futile. He had a degenerative neurological disease that left him with almost no brain function. Pope Francis was among those championing the cause of the parents.

Tom Evans told the forum that a foundation has been set up to help people in a difficult stage of life like Alfie’s parents had endured, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The political event was organized by the Brothers of Italy party, whose political roots come from a descendant of a neo-fascist party.

Sardinia’s far-right governor, Paolo Truzzo, a Brothers of Italy leader, gave the award to the father, who recounted the drama of his son and who thanked, among others, the pope and the party’s leader, Giorgia Meloni, for their support.

Bannon is planning a roadshow across half a dozen European countries starting this week to galvanize populist leaders and parties into a loose alliance and help gain a bigger foothold for their policies in the European Parliament, Trump’s former strategist said in an interview.

The Brussels-based group, dubbed The Movement and founded by Belgian politician Mischael Modrikamen, plans to highlight the importance of national sovereignty, stronger borders, greater limits on migration and fighting against so-called radical Islam, all as a means to boost nationalist parties in the May parliamentary elections.

The push to unite populist forces gives urgency to concerns among some European Union leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron at the looming clash of values over the bloc’s future direction. EU leaders meeting in the Austrian city of Salzburg on Wednesday are due to discuss two of the EU’s existential threats, the migration crisis and Brexit, both of which serve as rallying cries for nationalists.

“The individual parties throughout Europe are ‘woke’,” Bannon said in a recent interview in his Washington, D.C., townhouse, adding that he wants enough like-minded candidates to win seats in the EU Parliament to act as a block on pro-EU groups. “Europe’s going to see an intensity and focus among the voters and the media that what is happening is basically going to be a continentwide presidential election.”

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