‘Sofagate’: EU-Turkey diplomatic scandal snowballs

Anger grows after male leaders pictured taking chairs, leaving blindsided von der Leyen standing earlier than being ushered to a settee.

European Union legislators on Thursday known as for the bloc’s high two officers to elucidate a snowballing diplomatic scandal that noticed European Fee head Ursula von der Leyen left and not using a chair at latest talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The furore – dubbed “sofagate” on-line – has sparked a slew of accusations over Ankara’s angle to girls and the EU, sexism in Brussels, and inner political wrangling between the bloc’s establishments.

All of it centred on an ungainly second in the beginning of talks between von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and Erdogan in Ankara on Tuesday.

Whereas the 2 male leaders took the one two chairs, a blindsided von der Leyen was left standing earlier than being ushered to a close-by couch.

“EU-Turkey relations are essential. However EU unity and respect for human rights, together with girls’s rights, are additionally key,” Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia Perez, the pinnacle of the Socialist & Democrats grouping in parliament, wrote on Twitter.

She mentioned she had requested for a dialog with Von der Leyen and Michel “to make clear what occurred and learn how to respect the EU establishments”.

That decision was echoed by the chief of the conservative European Folks’s Celebration parliamentary bloc, Manfred Weber, who informed information web site Politico the journey to Ankara had change into “an emblem of disunity” between the EU’s high officers.

The assembly with Erdogan got here at a fragile second because the EU and Turkey look to rebuild ties rocked by renewed tensions final yr.

Von der Leyen, the primary feminine head of the European Fee, confused Brussels’s issues over girls’s rights after Erdogan withdrew from the Istanbul Conference on stopping violence in opposition to girls and youngsters.

Her spokesman hit out on the diplomatic fake pas however mentioned she had pressed on with addressing the thorny concern of ties with Ankara slightly than strolling out of the assembly.

Turkey’s International Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu deflected blame from Ankara and mentioned the seating preparations have been made “in step with the EU suggestion. Interval.”

Michel drew flak in Brussels for seeming to not help his colleague and readily accepting the one accessible seat.

In a Fb publish, he insisted “nothing is farther from the truth or my deepest emotions” and mentioned the “regrettable” scene was right down to a Turkish protocol blunder.

The scandal drew complaints from throughout Europe over what was seen as solely the most recent instance of bungled EU international coverage efforts.

“These are photos that damage. I don’t desire a naive Europe,” France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, mentioned.

“We’re coping with interlocutors who know the worth of symbols. We have now to be way more agency.”

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