The Trump administration seems to have snubbed the European Union in a totally novel way: according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the administration downgraded the diplomatic status of the EU’s delegation to Washington without telling the EU it was doing so.
“We don’t exactly know when they did it, because they conveniently forgot to notify us,” an anonymous EU official told DW. The status of the delegation—from “member state” to “international organization”—seems to have been downgraded sometime in October or November.
It was at George H.W. Bush’s funeral that the demotion was first made apparent.
At the high-profile event on December 5, as diplomats gathered in Washington to pay their respects, the EU’s ambassador to Washington, David 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.
After reaching out to Washington, the EU representative was told that they simply forgot to notify the delegation of the change.
“I can confirm that this has not been well received in Brussels,” the official continued. Yeah, no shit it hasn’t.
This kind of thing might seem trivial, but it’s pretty strange that Trump did something like this in the middle of a term. According to DW, the EU delegation’s elevation to a status on a par with sovereign countries came in 2016 after a long process by the Department of State under President Obama. The classifications do sometimes change, but that usually happens at the beginning of a new president’s term, not two years into it. Therefore, it’s likely to be seen as a political move by the Trump administration, whose problems with the EU are no secret. The people of Europe, meanwhile, are equally unenthused about Trump; a median 82 percent of European respondents in a recent Pew survey said they had no confidence in him. Trump shrugged these numbers off last week, saying, “When they say I’m not popular in Europe — I shouldn’t be popular in Europe. If I was popular in Europe, I wouldn’t be doing my job because I want Europe to pay.”
According to DW, diplomats from the EU reached out to the State Department to try to reverse the downgrade and were rejected. But the source says that there is still no official word on the transition. The State Department didn’t respond to DW’s request for comment, citing the government shutdown.