The European Commission on Wednesday hit out at a diplomatic snub that left European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen without a chair, as male counterparts sat down at a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Video from Tuesday’s encounter in Ankara showed Von der Leyen flummoxed as the Turkish leader and European Council President Charles Michel took the only two chairs in front of their flags.
“Ehm,” the former German minister of defense said, appearing unsure where to go.
Photo: EU via Reuters TV
Eventually she was seated on a sofa a little farther away from her counterparts, opposite Turkey’s foreign minister — someone below her in the protocol pecking order.
“The president of the commission was clearly surprised,” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said.
Von der Leyen should have been treated “exactly in the same manner” as Michel, he added.
“She does consider that these issues are important and need to be treated appropriately, which they clearly were not,” Mamer said.
The faux pas — quickly dubbed “sofagate” online — came at a delicate moment as the EU and Turkey look to rebuild ties, despite concerns over Ankara’s record on rights, including the protection of women.
Erdogan angered Brussels ahead of the visit by the bloc’s chiefs by announcing that he was withdrawing Turkey from the global Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women and children.
Speaking after the meeting with the Turkish leader, Von der Leyen said that “human rights issues are non-negotiable.”
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