#Sofagate controversy: the protocol affront experienced by Ursula von der Leyen in Ankara

An excerpt from the video released by the Turkish Presidency when the two EU leaders arrived in Ankara for their meeting with Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

AFP - -

Text by: RFI Follow

3 min

It was initially a storm in a glass of water which gradually turns into a controversy and a quasi-diplomatic incident: during the visit to Turkey of the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to relegate her away from him and Charles Michel.

Misogyny or snub, comments are going very well in Europe, especially on the occasion of a visit where Europeans denounce Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul convention against violence against women.


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With our correspondent in Brussels,

Pierre Bénazet

The arrival of the two European leaders in the protocol rooms of the Turkish presidency was filmed and we see Ursula von der Leyen emit a "hum" of spite and disapproval noting that only one seat has been planned for Charles Michel in next to Reçep Tayyip Erdoğan and that she will have to sit further on a sofa.

An EC spokesman responds to #Chairgate, explaining protocol department isn't traveling with leaders now because of Covid and didn't see arrangement beforehand.

"The Commission president was clearly surprised, that's something you can see from the video" pic.twitter.com/wsfL70qVQm

- Dave Keating (@DaveKeating) April 7, 2021

The president was clearly surprised, but whatever her surprise, she preferred to give priority to substance over questions of protocol or form,"

explains Éric Mamer, spokesperson for the European Commission.

The protocol rank of the President is exactly the same as that of the President of the European Council.

Usually, when she goes to a foreign country, she is treated in exactly the same way as the President of the European Council would be. 


The incident caused a lot of noise within the European institutions.

In the European Parliament, deputies accuse Charles Michel of having acted laughable by not offering the place of honor to Ursula von der Leyen.

Turkey will always be able to stress that in reality the EU grants the president of the commission a protocol rank lower than that of the president of the council, the fact remains that the scene seems to clearly demean Ursula von der Leyen and therefore the Commission, which can very well be seen as a sign of contempt for the European Union.


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  • Ursula von der Leyen

  • European Union

  • Turkey