This may sound like a minor point of protocol, but it has very significant importance.
The European Union wants to be seen as a government. Obama upgraded the EU’s status to a nation state. Trump’s people have reduced them back to an international organization. And that’s all that the EU is. It’s not a country. It’s not a real government. And it’s not happy.
The unannounced move by the US State Department, which has not previously been reported, downgraded the EU delegation’s diplomatic status in Washington from member state to international organization.
“I can confirm that this has not been well received in Brussels,” the person said, adding that the issue and an official EU response was still being discussed.
After discovering the downgrade, EU diplomats in Washington reached out to the State Department, which is responsible for diplomatic affairs, for clarification. “They have told us that they forgot to notify us and that this is a decision they have taken because that is apparently what the chief of protocol thinks is the proper thing to do,” the person said.
The EU official said the bloc ambassador’s status in Washington was upgraded to the level of a nation state ambassador in September 2016, after a lengthy and intensive process by the State Department under former President Barack Obama.
The move was inappropriate. Like so many other Obama moves. Now it’s been tossed out.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, in an effort to try to reverse the protocol downgrade, EU diplomats reached out to the State Department, but were ultimately told just before the Christmas holiday that the department stood by its decision, the EU official said. “But we have not received anything written.”
Asked for comment, the State Department did not respond on the issue, citing limited operations due to the government shutdown. “Due to the lapse in appropriations, the Press Office will be operating on a reduced status. Communications with the media will be limited to events and issues involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, or those determined to be essential to national security,” the State Department said in an email.
The message is, “Sorry, you guys aren’t important enough for us to be paying attention to your petty grievances right now.”