March 4 (UPI) -- The Trump administration moved Monday to recognize the European Union's representation in Washington, D.C., as equal to national ambassadors again, ending a riff that started last year.
The U.S. State Department issued an announcement saying that effective immediately it will again recognize the EU's representative in Washington, Stavros Lambrinidis, "as equivalent to that of a bilateral mission in the Diplomatic Corps Order of Precedence."
The Trump administration implemented the downgrade last year, changing a move by the previous Obama administration to give the EU's envoy equal status as ambassadors from other countries. The statement said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would instruct the chief of protocol to finalize the reinstatement.
The downgrade led to criticism from the European Parliament and Democrats in the United States as it marked one of the low points in the United States' relationship with Europe.
"The European Union is a uniquely important organization, and one of America's most valuable partners in ensuring global security and prosperity," ambassador of the United States to the European Union Gordon Sondland said in announcement.
"From generating jobs and economic growth, to setting international standards, to keeping destabilizing regimes in check, the United States and the European Union are a strong force when we work together. Europe's security and success are inextricably linked to that of the United States, and this level of engagement and cooperation should be recognized appropriately in all settings," he continued.
While EU diplomats remained quiet during the downgrade, they worked behind the scenes to change the status. The announced change happened as EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström and its lead civil servant Martin Selmayr were expected to travel to Washington this week for trade talks.
President Donald Trump had complained that the European Union was "possibly as bad as China" in its trade relations with the United States, then slapped the EU with tariffs on steel and aluminum exports.