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Ursula von der Leyen sidelined to sofa: 'Diplomatic fiasco' during EU presidents' trip to Turkey

Telegraph, 07 Apr 2021
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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.

Mrs von der Leyen and the former Belgian prime minister Mr Michel met Mr 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, Mrs von der Leyen - the first female president of the Commission - was left visibly perplexed as Mr Michel and Mr Erdogan took the only two chairs available in the centre of the room.

Video footage picks up the German official saying "ermm?" as Mr Michel takes his place at Mr Erdogan’s side without hesitation. Mrs 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.

The European Union said on Wednesday that Mrs von der Leyen had been "surprised" to not have been offered a seat next to Mr Erdogan and the EU Council President but had chosen to prioritise "substance over protocol."

EU Commission chief spokesperson Eric Mamer said the president should have been seated "exactly in the same manner" as Mr Erdogan and Mr Michel.

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#UrsulaVonDerLeyen #SofaGate #Turkey

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