WATCH: EU Commission president left without chair in meeting with Turkey’s Erdogan
Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission’s first female president, was “surprised” after being left without a chair during a meeting of the EU’s two presidents and Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and has demanded such a snub is never repeated.
After they were led in a big room for discussions with Erdogan, TV images showed that only two chairs had been laid out in front of the EU and the Turkish flags for the three leaders.
Michel and Erdogan took the chairs as von der Leyen stood looking at both men, expressing her astonishment with a “ehm” and a gesture of disappointment. Von der Leyen eventually sat on a large beige sofa, away from her male counterparts.
The meeting, according to a report by Associated Press, between the three leaders lasted more than two hours and a half.
“The important thing is that the president should have been seated exactly in the same manner as the president of the European council and the Turkish president,” EU commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer said according to AP, adding that Von der Leyen was surprised by the arrangements.
“She decided to proceed nevertheless, prioritizing substance over protocol, but nevertheless let me stress that the president expects that the institution that she represents to be treated with the required protocol, and she has therefore asked her team to take all appropriate contacts in order to ensure that such an incident does not occur in the future,” Mamer said.
MEanwhile, Turkey on Thursday strongly rejected accusations that it snubbed Ursula because of her gender, insisting that the EU’s own protocol requests were applied during a meeting at the Turkish presidential palace.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey had come under “extremely unfair” criticism over the visit and alleged slight shown to von der Leyen.
“Turkey is a deep-rooted state and this is not the first time that it has hosted a visitor,” Cavusoglu said. “The protocol applied during its (international) meetings is in line with international protocol rules as well as the world-renowned Turkish hospitality traditions.”
Cavusoglu insisted that Turkish and EU officials in charge of protocol had held meetings prior to the visit and that the arrangement was in line with EU requests.
“The protocol that was applied during the narrow-scope meeting that was held at our president’s office met the requests of the EU side. In other words, such a seating arrangement was made in line with the suggestions of the EU side. Period,” he said.
The Turkish minister added that he felt obliged to lay the blame on the EU publicly following accusations against Turkey from even “the highest levels of the EU.”