The United States has demoted the European Union to rank of ‘International Organisation,’ a lower diplomatic status than what it enjoyed under Barack Obama, in what is being seen in Brussels as a slap in the face for transatlantic relations.
The fact that the Trump administration made the decision without informing the EU is a further cause of outrage in Brussels.
“We understand that there was a recent change in the way the diplomatic precedence list is implemented by the United States’ protocol,” Maja Kocijančič, spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs and security policy, said. She added: “We were not notified of any change.”
“We are discussing with the relevant services in the administration possible implications for the EU delegation in Washington,” Kocijančič said. “We expect the diplomatic practice established some years ago to be observed.”
Under President Barack Obama, the EU was considered a government, the highest level of diplomatic status, and according to the German news agency Deutsche Welle, Brussels only learned of its demotion to the status of International Organisation when the EU ambassador to Washington failed to receive invites to important events, including the funeral of President H.W. Bush.
The news comes at a difficult juncture in EU-US relations. EU negotiator Cecilia Malmström has been in Washington since Tuesday trying to ease trade tensions between the two sides. She is scheduled to meet with the US Trade Representative to try to convince President Donald Trump not to impose a 25 percent tariff on European car imports, which would mostly affect Germany and could trigger a trade war.
Relations between the European Union and the United States deteriorated in 2018 with Washington’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from the EU and other trading partners. The EU responded with targeted retaliation.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker visited the United States in July and agreed to a truce in the growing confrontation with the Trump administration. But a few months later, transatlantic relations were set back again when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo questioned the value of multilateral institutions including the EU during a visit to Brussels for a meeting at NATO Headquarters.