Turkish musical chairs triggers ‘diplomatic fiasco’ after Ursula von der Leyen relegated to sofa
EU leaders were left embarrassed when Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen was relegated to a sofa during a meeting with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Tuesday, while her Council counterpart Charles Michel was allowed to sit at the president’s side.
Von der Leyen and the former Belgian prime minister Michel met Erdogan to discuss the EU’s refugee deal and Turkey’s relationship with Brussels, but the optics of their meeting are now the only thing anyone is talking about.
During the meeting of the three leaders, von der Leyen – the first female president of the Commission – was left visibly perplexed as Michel and Erdogan took the only two chairs available in the centre of the room.
Video footage picks up the German official saying “ermm?” as Michel takes his place at Erdogan’s side without hesitation. Von der Leyen’s relegation has already been condemned by EU figures past and present, as well as triggering the #SofaGate trend on social media.
Christian Kern, a former chancellor of Austria, called Michel “a joke”, while Violeta Bulc, a former transport commissioner, called the meeting “a humiliating demonstration of equality” and “a diplomatic fiasco”.