President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon delivered a message of preference for disunity in the European Union a week before US Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Europe, say German officials.

Pence was in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday (20 February) where he told the EU's European Council that the US and Europe "must be strong and united in our efforts to confront threats to Europe's security and stability." He expressed President Trump's "steadfast and enduring" commitment to the EU.

According to German diplomats who spoke with Reuters, however, Trump's chief strategist Bannon held a meeting with a German official in the week before Pence's trip. There Bannon sent a message to Germany's ambassador: he sees the EU as broken and wants to conduct relations with European nations one-on-one. The move could cut out the EU and curtail its power.

The meeting confirmed to Germany and its European allies that they should prepare for "hostility towards the EU" from the Trump administration, one source briefed on the meeting told Reuters.

During Pence's visit to Europe, many viewed his statements with scepticism. Just before his inauguration on 20 January Trump said the EU is "basically a vehicle for Germany" and more countries will leave the Union like Britain. Trump said Brexit will "end up being a great thing".

The German officials said that Bannon laid out his worldview and indicated he believed the future of Europe is based on strong nationalist movements.

The White House told Reuters that the meeting was short and perfunctory. "They only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello," a White House official said.