Trump’s government downgraded diplomatic status of the European Union (EU) mission to the United States, according an EU official.
Media reports confirm the demotion happened without notice in the last quarter of 2018.
The unannounced move by the US State Department, which has not previously been reported, downgraded the EU delegation’s diplomatic status in Washington from member state to international organization, DW reported.
“We don’t exactly know when they did it, because they conveniently forgot to notify us,” the unnamed EU official said.
“I can confirm that this has not been well received in Brussels,” the person said, adding that the issue and an official EU response was still being discussed. Meanwhile EU officials in Brussels said on Tuesday that per protocol, the diplomatic rank of David O’Sullivan, the EU’s ambassador to Washington, had been reinstated.
After the delegation noticed that the EU’s Washington ambassador had not been invited to certain events late last year, officials organizing the state funeral for President George H.W. Bush provided final confirmation to EU diplomats that the status of the representation had in fact been downgraded. Diplomats believe the downgrade must have been implemented in late October or early November.
At the high-profile event on December 5, as diplomats gathered in Washington to pay their respects, O’Sullivan, was not called up in the usual chronological order from the longest-serving to the newest ambassador, said the EU official. “But he was called up as the last person.”
Prior to the demotion, O’Sullivan, who has served as the EU’s ambassador to Washington since 2014, would have been ranked among the first 20 or 30 ambassadors of the more than 150 foreign representatives dispatched to the US capital.
According to DW, a Washington-based diplomat of an EU member state also confirmed the downgrade, and denounced the move.
“This is clearly not simply a protocol issue, but this is something that has a very obvious political motive,” the person said. The diplomat added that the negative view of the EU mission downgrade was shared by the majority of member states.
After discovering the downgrade, EU diplomats in Washington reached out to the State Department, which is responsible for diplomatic affairs, for clarification. “They have told us that they forgot to notify us and that this is a decision they have taken because that is apparently what the chief of protocol thinks is the proper thing to do,” the person said.
The EU official said the bloc ambassador’s status in Washington was upgraded to the level of a nation state ambassador in September 2016, after a lengthy and intensive process by the State Department under former President Barack Obama.