The Trump administration quietly downgraded the diplomatic status of the European Union’s mission to the US late last year, without informing the diplomats themselves, a German report has revealed.
The European Union’s delegation to the US, which had previously enjoyed nation-state ambassador status, was reduced to “international organization” sometime in late October or early November 2018, EU officials told German outlet Deutsche Welle, which first reported the story
Adding insult to injury, nobody notified the mission of the change – which became evident at the state funeral of former President George H. W. Bush, in early December.
During the ceremony, EU ambassador David O’Sullivan was not called up in the usual order of precedence – which goes from the longest-serving to the newest ambassador – which would have put him among the first 20 or 30. Instead, he was called up last among over 150 foreign representatives, according to an unnamed EU official quoted by DW.
After discovering the protocol discrepancy, EU diplomats reached out to the US State Department, which responded that it had forgotten to notify them about the downgrade. Sullivan’s status has since been reinstated, at least temporarily, according to reports.
The EU mission was granted nation-state embassy status in the US by the Obama administration in 2016. Apart from being an obvious snub, if it turns out to be permanent the Trump downgrade could mean the EU diplomats will have lower protocol importance and a harder time trying to gain access to American officials.
Under President Donald Trump, Washington’s relations with the bloc have cooled down significantly, to the point where Trump himself named EU a “foe” of the US in May, because of its trade policies.
Speaking in Brussels in early December, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Trump’s stance, questioning individual European countries’ deference to the “bureaucrats here in Brussels.”
Trump has been at odds with the EU over a variety of issues, including his support for Brexit and his withdrawals from the Paris climate accord and from the internationally-acclaimed Iran nuclear deal – which European signatories are still hard at work trying to salvage.
The State Department has not made an official comment on the downgrade.