In the “SofaGate” case regarding the protocol treatment of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, during her visit to Turkey, accusations continue to be exchanged. On Thursday, the Council of the European Union published a note describing planning for a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Accordingly, the advance delegation of the European Union did not have access to the room in which the subsequent conversation with von der Leyen took place and the President of the Council of the European Union Charles Michel.
The note reads: “There was a short tour of the building.” The conference room was not accessible “despite our requests” because it “was considered too close to President Erdogan’s office.” Otherwise, the European Union would have proposed that von der Leyen be given an armchair “out of courtesy” like Michel and no space on the sofa.
So representatives of the European Union became active in the dining room, which was granted access at short notice. There, at her request, “the three VIP chairs were modified in size in favor of the Chairperson”. In addition, it was the President of the Council of the European Union, Michel, who suggested including von der Leyen in the official photo of the meeting.
Regarding the arrangement of the two heads, the memorandum refers to the European Union Treaty and an agreement between heads of institutional protocols. Accordingly, “the protocol for third countries makes a clear distinction between the status of the head of state occupied by the president of the European Council and that of the head of government occupied by the president of the Commission.” This may be the “cause of the problem”.
The “SofaGate” case has sparked intense criticism and allegations of misogyny against the Turkish government. For its part, the Turkish government blamed the European Union for the incident. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the arrangement of the seats had been “according to the proposal of the European Union.” He described the criticism of Turkey as “unfair”.