EU furious after Trump administration quietly demotes European ambassador’s diplomatic status

‘Clearly we’re not happy with this,’ Brussels official says

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 08 January 2019 15:56
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Brussels has expressed fury after the diplomatic status of the European Union’s ambassador to the US was quietly downgraded by the Trump administration.

The move sees the EU’s delegation to America relegated from a member state to an international organisation by the US State Department.

An EU spokesperson told The Independent the 28-member bloc was not notified by Washington over the unannounced “recent change”, and that officials were in discussion with their US counterparts over “possible implications” for the delegation in Washington.

“The ties that we have between Europe and the United States extend well beyond Washington DC and run deep into our societies,” EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said.

“It continues to be the case that, even with an evolving transatlantic relationship as is the case today, our partnership on the many issues where our interests continue to converge is vital not just for Europeans, not just for Americans, but for people and countries around the world.

“This is why we are convinced that whatever policy disagreement we may have with the US administration, we remain natural partners, natural friends, and our friendship with the US is here to stay.”

Other EU officials were blunter. “Clearly we’re not happy with this,” said one official in the EU’s External Action Service, which manages its diplomatic relations, who wished to remain anonymous.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), which first covered the downgrading of ties, reported another official as saying it had “not been well received” in Brussels.

The demotion apparently only came to the attention of EU officials when the ambassador to Washington, David O’Sullivan, was not invited to certain events last year.

European diplomats were given final confirmation when Mr O’Sullivan was “called up as the last person” invited to former president George HW Bush’s funeral last month.

The State Department traditionally calls ambassadors to high-profile events in chronological order – from longest-serving to newest.

As one of the longer-serving diplomats in Washington, Mr O’Sullivan would have expected to have been among the first to receive an invite.

Officials believe the downgrade likely occurred in October or November, DW reported, effectively repealing a decision made in the last days of Barack Obama’s presidency to grant the EU member state status.

It comes amid increasing hostility towards the EU by the White House.

Donald Trump is a vocal supporter of Britain’s exit from the EU – he dubbed himself “Mr Brexit” in 2016 – and has regularly criticised the bloc for its approach to trade with America.

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He has also attacked the leaders of France and Germany – the EU’s dominant member states – over their approaches to taxation and immigration respectively.

The State Department said it was unable to comment thanks to the US government shutdown imposed by Mr Trump.

“Due to the lapse in appropriations, the press office will be operating on a reduced status,” it said in an email.

“Communications with the media will be limited to events and issues involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, or those determined to be essential to national security.”

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