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President Biden walks with his sister, Valerie Biden Owens, after attending Mass in Delaware on Saturday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is leaning toward nominating Mark Gitenstein to be his ambassador to the European Union and Julie Smith as his envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Driving the news: Some Biden advisers want to have the EU and NATO ambassadors announced ahead of Biden’s first foreign trip as president, when he heads to the United Kingdom for the G-7 and then Brussels for a NATO summit in June.

  • While the president began reviewing names of potential ambassadors in March, officials have stressed he's taking his time on making final decisions.
  • Gitenstein, an international lawyer and President Obama's first ambassador to Romania, now serves as a senior counsel at Mayer Brown. He was also on the board of directors of The Biden Foundation, which dissolved at the end of last year.
  • Smith, a German speaker who was one of Biden's deputy national security advisers while he was vice president, is currently a senior adviser at the State Department.
  • Biden officials say that final decisions have not been made.

Why it matters: While the EU and NATO will play key roles in Biden’s effort to restore relationships with European allies, contentious issues loom.

  • The new president wants to work in concert with the EU on confronting China, but many European countries look at China as a massive market — instead of a strategic competitor.
  • The Biden administration also will continue to demand NATO allies spend at least 2% of the GDP on their defense budgets, as they pledged to do by 2024 during a 2014 summit in Wales.
  • When president, Donald Trump angered some allies by pushing them to meet that commitment.

The intrigue: Biden hasn’t revoked Trump’s tariffs on EU steel and aluminum, and the European Union’s retaliatory 25% tariffs on American whiskey remain in place, potentially doubling in June.

  • In March, officials on both sides of the Atlantic did move to reduce tensions from a long-running subsidy dispute over Boeing and Airbus, with both sides announcing a suspension in tariffs on billions of dollars in goods.

By the numbers: Biden has only announced 10 ambassadors, of the roughly 190 open positions, including Linda Thomas-Greenfield as his UN ambassador, who is also a member of his Cabinet, and nine career diplomats for open positions, mostly in Africa.

  • Overall, for his Cabinet and sub-cabinet, Biden has had 36 of his political appointees confirmed by the Senate.
  • That number is well ahead of President Trump's 25 confirmations after his first 100 days in office, according to the Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service.
  • Biden's numbers are well below the 68 confirmed appointees that Obama had at his 100-day mark.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that the Biden Foundation has been dissolved.

Go deeper

Apr 24, 2021 - World

Turkey summons U.S. ambassador over Armenian genocide recognition

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey's foreign ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador to Ankara over President Biden's recognition of the Armenian genocide, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Driving the news: Biden on Saturday said the systemic killing and deportation of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces in the early 20th century constituted an act of genocide, angering Turkey who rejected the declaration.

19 mins ago - World

Scoop: Israel launches maximum pressure campaign against Ben & Jerry's

A Ben & Jerry's store in the Israeli city of Yavne. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty

The Israeli government has formed a special task force to pressure Ben & Jerry's ice cream and its parent company Unilever to reverse their decision to boycott Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government is concerned the move by Ben & Jerry's will encourage other international companies to take similar steps to differentiate between Israel and the West Bank settlements. A classified Foreign Ministry cable, seen by Axios, makes clear the government wants to send a message.

Video game developers at Activision Blizzard say they'll walk out Wednesday

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Employees at Activision Blizzard will hold a walkout Wednesday in protest of widespread harassment allegations across the company, a spokesperson on behalf of the group told Axios.

Why it matters: Walkouts are a drastic measure for developers in a largely non-unionized field, a testament to just how angry employees currently are.

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