U.S. returns higher diplomatic status to EU’s Washington mission

FILE PHOTO: From left, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, EU Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini, EU Commission Member Miguel Arias Canete, EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, and Federal Minister Juliane Bogner Strauss pose before a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, July 12, 2018. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has restored a higher protocol status to European Union diplomats in Washington after a snub that highlighted how the traditional allies were becoming estranged.

The trans-Atlantic alliance has been damaged since Trump came to power in 2017 by feuds over trade, security and international affairs including accords on climate change and Iran’s nuclear programme.

Late last year, the Trump administration downgraded the protocol status for the bloc’s diplomats without notifying Brussels.

In a statement to welcome a new EU ambassador to Washington, the U.S. mission in Brussels said on Monday that the bloc had been restored to its previous status in the U.S. capital.

“The United States and the European Union are a strong force when we work together,” Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU, said in a message coinciding with the EU’s new envoy, Stavros Lambrinidis, taking up his post in Washington.

“Europe’s security and success are inextricably linked to that of the United States,” Sondland added. “And this level of engagement and cooperation should be recognised appropriately in all settings.”

The downgrade had meant that the bloc’s Washington-based diplomats were less likely to be invited to high-profile events and had lower importance than under Barack Obama.

“We are pleased that the U.S. took the decision to revert to the usual practice,” said a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the EU’s executive.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Mark Heinrich

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