At some point during his tenure, President Donald Trump has downgraded the European Union’s Mission to the U.S., NPR reported on Tuesday — and the change was made without notifying the EU’s ambassador.
German broadcaster Deutsche Welle initially reported on the issue: "We don't exactly know when they did it, because they conveniently forgot to notify us," an EU official told the news outlet.
The EU's ambassador to Washington, David O'Sullivan, had not been invited to some events last year, DW reports, and an open sign of his new status came as diplomats were called up to pay their respects to the late President George H.W. Bush in early December 2018. Prior to the change, O'Sullivan would have been among the first 20 or 30 ambassadors to be called up, in line with his fairly senior status as a diplomat serving in his post since 2014. DW reports he was called up last and that he had not been notified of the change.
Since 2016, the ambassador of the European Union to the United States has been on the Diplomatic Corps Order of Precedence list equally with national ambassadors, says Maria Belovas, a spokeswoman for the EU delegation to the U.S.
Belovas noted to NPR that the practice reflects the Lisbon Treaty, which “commits the EU member states to a common foreign and security policy” and which the EU ambassador represents.
Following the Trump administration’s change, O'Sullivan is now considered the head of a national organization, as is the African Union.
Relations between Brussels and Washington have been tense under the Trump administration. The EU has placed a 25 percent tariff on more than $3 billion in U.S. goods, including bourbon, corn and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, NPR reports. These measures came in retaliation for new American tariffs that affected $7.5 billion in EU goods, including on steel and aluminum.
The U.S. has also clashed with its European allies over military spending. In July, President Trump spoke at a NATO summit, where he demanded member states step up their military spending and berated countries for not doing it faster. During the summit, Trump sparked rumors the U.S. might withdraw from the military compact that has stood for seven decades.
NPR said a request for comment from the State Department was declined.