“We do not know exactly why they did this because they did not inform us,” an EU representative told Deutsche Welle in Washington. According to him, “this step was not well received in Brussels”.
The question is currently being discussed with the government in Washington, the EU said in Brussels.
Last year, the “European Union Delegation to the United States” noted that its ambassador to Washington, David O’Sullivan, was not invited to any specific events.
At the request of EU diplomats, US officials confirmed that O’Sullivan’s status had been downgraded.
Later, EU officials in Brussels said that the current EU ambassador had regained his original official rank but was only in office until February.
Observers do not rule out political motivations. A diplomat from an EU member state criticised the move: “This is definitely not a matter of protocol, but something with a very clear political background.”
According to the diplomat, who wanted to remain anonymous, downgrading the status of representing any country is done simultaneously with a change of administration and not two years after the fact. It also usually informs the diplomatic mission in advance in writing.
The diplomatic downgrade of the EU delegation in Washington seems to be in line with the anti-European stance of the Trump administration.
Experts associate this move with a deterioration in US trade relations. Washington raised import duties on steel and aluminum from the EU in the summer of 2018. Brussels responded with retaliatory duties on US goods.
Later, US President Donald Trump and European Commission Chief Executive Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to refrain from protectionist measures during the trade talks.