"Sofagate": embarrassed EU, Draghi accuses Erdogan of having humiliated Ursula von der Leyen

Italian council president Mario Draghi at a press conference in Rome, April 8, 2021. AP - Riccardo Antimiani

Text by: RFI Follow

5 mins

The president of the Italian council this Thursday evening April 8 qualified the Turkish president of “ 


” while answering a question on the “ 



The outcry continues after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen found herself without a seat alongside European Council President Charles Michel against Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

For some observers, this humiliation not only reflects Erdogan's misogyny, but reveals a “ 


” between the Commission on the one hand and the European Council and the leaders of the 27 EU countries on the other.


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I was very heartbroken by the humiliation that the President of the Commission had to endure with these, let's call them for what they are, dictators,

 " Mario Draghi said during a press conference in Rome .

The President of the Italian Council was responding to a question on the behavior of Recep Tayyip Erdogan towards the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen,

placed on a couch on Tuesday

during a meeting of the heads of the institutions of the EU in Istanbul. 


 I absolutely do not share the behavior of the Turkish president towards the president of the committee [...].

It was not appropriate behavior,

 ”said Mario Draghi.

The Turkish Foreign Minister immediately condemned the words of the head of the Italian government.

We strongly condemn the populist, offensive and unreasonable comments made by Italian Prime Minister Draghi,

 " Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a tweet, after his services summoned the Italian ambassador to Ankara.

► To read also: "Sofagate" in Ankara: after the diplomatic quack, Turkey blames the EU

Junker and Tusk sitting together facing Erdogan


video showing the President of the European Commission sitting on a



has shocked many MEPs and senior European officials.


We had previous photographs which showed very well that when Erdogan received [Jean) -Claude] Junker and [Donald] Tusk, that is to say the counterparts of Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, there was three armchairs,

recalls scandalized Véronique Trillet Lenoir, MEP Renew, at the microphone of

Béatrice Leveillé

, of the International service of RFI.

So we are not in a question of pure protocol.

We are in a provocation of a leader who also asserts, including by 

leaving the Istanbul convention,

his denial of gender equality.


In addition, the MEP deplores the reaction of the President of the European Council: “ 

We are unfortunate that Charles Michel falls into the trap and does not have the education reflex, which should have asked for a third chair.

All this is very shocking, puts the European Union in a position of weakness vis-à-vis Erdogan, who himself behaves like a goujat, a dictator, a denial of gender equality.



Read also: The EU denounces Erdogan's attitude on gender-based violence and the rule of law

Charles Michel: " 

I would like so much to be able to rewind


For his part, Charles Michel spoke this Thursday evening on a Belgian television: “ 

I have rewound 150 times in my head since the hour and I would like so much to be able to rewind, go back,

he confided.

And if I could do it, I would have made sure that there was not the slightest ambiguity and that we actually had a completely normal [...] situation, that is to say a two-seat configuration that shows respect for each and everyone.


However, for the former Belgian Prime Minister, it was impossible to do otherwise at the time: " 

Whatever act I was going to take, I was therefore going to create a much more serious, much more major incident, which was going to destroy months and months of meticulous preparatory work which not only commits me or Ursula, but which engages 27 European governments and 450 million citizens to bring back a little more stability, a little more security in relations with Turkey.



To listen: Europe-Turkey: is reconciliation possible?






All in all, the EU is struggling to extricate itself from the “Sofagate”.

At the end of the afternoon on Thursday, a note from the European Council clarified the conditions of the meeting and in particular underlined the fact that the Commission protocol services were not present upstream.

But for Patrick Martin Genier, specialist in European affairs and lecturer at Sciences Po and Inalco, " 

assuming that the representatives of the Commission were not there, it was at the European Council, at both diplomatic services but also to the cabinet of Mr. Charles Michel to warn the Commission by saying that there was a risk that faced with Erdogan and to display the unity of the European Union, it was essential that the two personalities who represent the European executive side by side, next to Mr. Erdogan because there was political involvement.


Through this incident, the specialist points to an “ 

increasingly important war, an institutional war between the European Council and the heads of government, and the European Commission.

It is clear today that some governments in Europe would like to relegate the Commission to a level of a purely technocratic body with no political significance.



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  • Turkey

  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan

  • Ursula von der Leyen

On the same subject

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

"Sofagate" in Ankara: after diplomatic quack, Turkey blames the EU


April 8, 2021 - Sofagate