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'Sofagate': Brussels angry over von der Leyen Turkey chair snub

DW, 08 Apr 2021
The European Commission on Wednesday reproached Ankara after its chief Ursula von der Leyen found there was no chair for her as the Turkish president sat down to talk to her male colleague Charles Michel.

The incident was quickly dubbed "sofagate," with observers saying the Commission president had been a victim of sexism and treated like a second-rank official.

Von der Leyen was in Ankara with European Council President Charles Michel, to speak to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Footage showed Von der Leyen gesture in disbelief and utter a surprised "ähm" as Erdogan and Michel took the two center-stage seats that had been prepared.

The Commission head was instead forced to sit on an adjacent sofa, slightly further away from her male counterparts.

She was seated opposite the Turkish foreign minister, who would normally be considered below her in the protocol pecking order.

As president of the European Commission, von der Leyen is head of the EU executive, while, as European Council president, Charles Michel coordinates between the leaders of the EU member states, especially during summits. If anything, von der Leyen's post is considered the more senior and important.

Brussels expects both to be treated with the protocol that would be reserved for a head of government.

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