Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Trump downgrades EU diplomatic status without telling Brussels

EU officials were surprised by the move but said it would not damage relations with Washington

President Donald Trump (R) has never hid his dislike of the EU, led by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker (L). EPA.
President Donald Trump (R) has never hid his dislike of the EU, led by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker (L). EPA.

The Trump administration downgraded the status of the EU mission to the US last year – failing to inform Brussels as it did so.

The move reversed a decision made by Mr Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama in 2016 to upgrade the EU’s status to a nation state.

“We were not notified of any change. We expect the diplomatic practice established some years ago to be observed,” said EU spokesman Maja Kocijancic in a statement.

“The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty substantially enhanced the EU’s status in external relations and this is amply recognised by most of the countries around the world,” she added.

The 2007 Lisbon treaty sought to bolster the “efficiency and democratic legitimacy” of the bloc, with critics saying it would centralise the EU.

“We understand that there was a recent change in the way the diplomatic precedence list is implemented by the United States’ Protocol,” said Ms Kocijanic

“We are discussing with the relevant services in the administration possible implications for the EU Delegation in Washington.”

The development, first reported on Tuesday by German broadcaster Deutche Welle, was discovered by Brussel’s year when the EU’s representative to Washington, David O’Sullivan, was not invited to a number of events. Confirmation came as the lead up to the funeral of former president George HW Bush.

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Diplomatic protocol meant ambassadors were called up to pay their respects in chronological order dependent on how long they had been in the role - with the longest-serving the first. Despite Mr O’Sullivan being in the role since 2014 he was, however, called up last. An EU official said noses were out of joint since then: “"I can confirm that this has not been well received in Brussels.”

Despite the surprising news there was no suggestion it would seriously impact the transatlantic relationship, with Ms Kocijanic saying: “we remain natural partners, natural friends, and our friendship with the US is here to stay.”

The State Department has refused to comment, citing the US government shutdown.

Updated: January 8, 2019 08:00 PM

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