The European Union said Tuesday it is in talks with United States officials after President Donald Trump’s administration reportedly “downgraded” the bloc’s embassy in Washington – the latest blow to transatlantic relations.
The U.S. State Department quietly lowered the E.U. mission’s diplomatic status from member state to international organization late last year, according to a report by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
The move apparently only came to light when the E.U. ambassador in Washington did not receive an invitation to the funeral of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush in December, DW reported.
“We understand that there was a recent change in the way the diplomatic precedence list is implemented by the United States’ Protocol,” Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for the European Commission’s diplomatic service, told AFP in an email.
Instead of doing actual diplomacy, Trump officials seem to sit around brainstorming abt how they can further insult our friends & damage our alliances. Constant insults (along w/ climate/Iran withdrawals) will haunt us when we need our friends to step up. https://t.co/9BKDrBFm8E
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) January 8, 2019
“We are discussing with the relevant services in the administration possible implications for the E.U. Delegation in Washington.”
Kocijancic confirmed the E.U. was not notified of the change and said the bloc expected “the diplomatic practice established some years ago to be observed.”
Why This Matters
The news comes at a sensitive moment for E.U.-U.S. relations, with the bloc’s top trade negotiator Cecilia Malmstrom on her way to Washington to try to breathe life into efforts to strike a trade deal and calm raging commercial tensions.
Officials in Brussels hope Malmstrom’s talks with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will persuade Trump away from slapping 25 percent tariffs on European car imports, that would mostly affect Germany and possibly spark a trade war.
Under Trump, Europe’s once solid relationship with the U.S. has deteriorated and last year Washington put tariffs on steel and aluminum from the E.U. and other partners.
And last month Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a major policy speech in Brussels to take aim at the bloc, saying Britain’s Brexit vote had raised valid questions about whether the E.U. was putting the interests of bureaucrats ahead of those of citizens.
More on the Subject
The U.S. State Department announced September that it would be closing the Washington D.C. office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
In a statement, then-State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert cited concerns over the PLO’s attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel from the International Criminal Court as a justification for closing their Washington headquarters.
The State Department’s announcement came just hours before national security advisor John Bolton gave a speech condemning the ICC over its treatment of the U.S. and Israel.