Two armchairs for three presidents. The meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and representatives of the European Union Ursula von der Leyen e Charles Michel.
The President of the Commission and the President of the Council arrived in Ankara to restart relations between the EU and Turkey, but also to express their concern for the country’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention against violence against women on March 20. European faced one protocol rudeness: in the hall of the sumptuous presidential palace there were only two armchairs with their respective flags behind them.
Michel and Erdogan did not hesitate and sat in front of von der Leyen, amazed, clearly embarrassed and irritated.
Eventually the European leader did a wave with the right hand and, muttering an ehm of disapproval, she positioned herself on a sofa before the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, which for below her in diplomatic protocol.
The unfortunate episode, immortalized by the official video of the meeting, immediately bounced on social networks with the hashtag #sophagus (here the comment by Massimo Gramellini).
Many have wondered why Michel did not react. In diplomacy, but not only, the substance form. And the most widespread criticism invests the credibility of the EU in demanding respect for women’s rights, when the President of the European Council allowed von der Leyen to be sidelined.
Many have read the rudeness as an act of sexism. The #vonderLeyen chair becomes the flag of European values and the shame of #Erdogan tweeted the secretary of the Democratic Party, Enrico Letta. And the EPP group in the EU Parliament said: Someone should be ashamed of the lack of a suitable seat for von der Leyen in Erdogan’s palace. The socialist groups are also indignant.
The word er is the new term for: not what EU-Turkey relations should be, he said of the Greens. For League MEPs now that Brussels pulls the plug on negotiations with the dictator.
Late yesterday Michel said that while sensing the deplorable nature of the situation he and von der Leyen chose not to make it worse by creating a public accident. He spoke of the bleak situation produced by the strict interpretation of the protocol rules by the Turkish services.
However, on 16 November 2015, in a meeting at the same level, on the sidelines of the G20 chaired by Turkey in Antalya, both EU leaders of the time, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, were seated in two armchairs equidistant to Erdogan’s sides. . The same had happened on other occasions.
Something must not have worked in the organization because it was clear that von der Leyen had not even been warned about the seating arrangement. And usually the so-called scene setter is an important moment in planning the visit.
Von der Leyen expects to be treated according to the protocol rules and has asked his people to make sure that these incidents never happen again, explained yesterday the spokesman of the Commission, Eric Mamer, stressing that the president has chosen to focus on substance of the problems.
Per Carlo Marsili, former Italian ambassador to Turkey, when a visit is prepared there are two parties who decide what happens: one the local protocol, in this case Turkish, the other that of the embassy of the guest delegation. The EU ambassador to Turkey, the German Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, adviser to Merkel from 2011 to 2015: It was enough that he demanded equal treatment, says Marsili.