Turkey blames the European Union for the “Sofagate”

Turkey blames the European Union for the “Sofagate”
Turkey blames the European Union for the “Sofagate”

(Istanbul) Turkey castigated “unfair accusations” on Thursday after the protocol affront felt by the President of the European Commission in Ankara, saying that the arrangement of the seats at the heart of the controversy had been suggested by the European side.



Posted on April 8, 2021 at 1:22 p.m.

Fulya OZERKAN
France Media Agency

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was placed on a couch on Tuesday by the protocol during a meeting of the presidents of the EU institutions with Turkish Head of State Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of the Charles Michel European Council, which caused a lot of resentment, but also friction in Brussels.

Draghi calls Erdogan a “dictator”

On Thursday night, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi even called Mr Erdogan a “dictator” and said he was “deeply saddened by the humiliation the Commission president had to endure”.

“The accusations against Turkey are unfair. Turkey is a deeply rooted state and this is not the first time that we have welcomed foreign dignitaries, ”Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a press conference in Ankara.

“The EU’s demands have been respected. This means that the seating arrangement was made at their request. Our protocol services met before the meeting and their requests (from the EU) were respected, ”he added.

But the protocol service of the European Council, an institution chaired by Charles Michel, argued Thursday that he had not had prior access to the room where the meeting was to take place.

“If the room had been visited, we would have suggested to our hosts that, as a courtesy, the sofa be replaced by two armchairs for the President of the Commission,” said the service in a letter.

The scene was filmed and widely broadcast on social media. Under the hashtag #Sofagate, she sparked many comments on the unequal treatment between the two heads of the European institutions, and its sexist character.

“Ehm”, murmurs the former German Minister of Defense, apparently distraught: standing, she seems not to know where to settle while Charles Michel and the Turkish president are wedged in the two armchairs prepared for the meeting.

Ursula von der Leyen then sits on a sofa, behind the two men, facing the Turkish Foreign Minister.

On Wednesday, Ursula von der Leyen made known her displeasure at being placed on the back seat and demanded to be treated as the equal of the President of the Council.

Its spokesperson affirmed that “the presidents of the two institutions have the same protocol rank”, but the European Council, the body representing the member states, nevertheless indicated that its president took precedence over the Commission for the international protocol. .

“Symbol of disunity”

The major political groups of the European Parliament deplored Thursday the image of disunity given by the presidents of the institutions during their meeting with the Turkish president and asked them to come and explain themselves in plenary.

“The meeting in Ankara of Presidents von der Leyen and Michel should have sent a message of firmness and unity of the European approach towards Turkey. Unfortunately, it has translated into a symbol of disunity, the presidents having failed to unite when necessary. We expect more from Europe’s foreign policy ”, deplored the German Manfred Weber, president of the Group of the European People’s Party (EPP) (pro-European right).

The president of the Socialists and Democrats group, the Spaniard Iratxe Garcia Perez, also asked for the hearing of the presidents of the two institutions “to clarify what happened” and to see “how to ensure respect for the European institutions”.

In a comment on Facebook, Charles Michel estimated that “the strict interpretation by the Turkish services of the rules of protocol has produced a distressing situation: the differential treatment, even reduced, of the President of the European Commission”.

“At the time, while perceiving the regrettable nature of the situation, we chose not to aggravate it by a public incident. […] “And” to privilege “” the substance of the political discussion “with the Turkish president, he added, while saying” saddened “by this incident.

Indignant reactions

The case has sparked indignant reactions in Europe, especially since it occurred a few weeks after Ankara’s withdrawal from a European convention on the prevention of violence against women.

The most virulent comments were made by the French political class, at a time when relations between Paris and Ankara were marked by strong tensions.

“These are pictures that hurt! I do not want a naive, fragile Europe, ”lamented Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune. “It is an affront that will be corrected, but we must not let this kind of thing happen,” he added on BFM Business on Wednesday evening.

“There is a kind of humiliation and then we also see something very related to the release of the women’s rights convention from Turkey recently,” reacted the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, Thursday on RTL.

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