Three leaders and two chairs made the EU-Turkey meeting “extraly embarrassing”.
On the 6th local time, when Turkish President Erdoğan met with visiting European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Michel, only two chairs were put in front of the three, and the sofa was in the distance.
Is it a mistake or deliberate by the Turkish government? Which of the two “chairmen” sits and who doesn’t sit? Eventually, von der Leyen sat on the side sofa. After the video was exposed, the meeting caused heated discussion on social media abroad. Interpretations of diplomatic relations, international etiquette, position rank, gender equality continue to ferment…
Von der Leyen “sit without a chair”
The live video shows that after Erdoğan and Michelle sat down the only two chairs in the center of the venue, von der Leyen stood beside him, his arms were briefly stretched out, palms up, as if they were saying “er” and sat on the sofa beside him and faced the Turkish Foreign Minister.
As the EU leader and the only woman among the three who visited Turkey, von der Leyen’s “marginalized” in the seating arrangement quickly caused controversy.
The Washington Post pointed out that Turkey’s foreign minister is relatively low in a typical diplomatic situation, which is obviously inconsistent with diplomatic reciprocal etiquette, and the topic on social media called “#sofagate” has become a hot topic for everyone to discuss.
This dramatic event not only casts people doubt on the effectiveness of the meeting, but also set off several rounds of “discourse” in social media and diplomatic circles. All parties exchanged words and words, which was very lively for a while. But behind it, what deep-seated problems did the incident reveal?
Many “mouth fights”
Who is right?
[First Round: Melon-eating netizens “senten” Michelle and Erdoğan]
After the live video was exposed, the dissatisfaction of netizens first extended to Turkish President Erdoğan at the scene. Some netizens believe that this is Turkey’s disrespect for von der Leyen, “which proves how stingy Erdoğan is”.
Some netizens also threw out a photo of “Von der Leyen carrying a chair”, suggesting von der Leyen do this next time he goes to Turkey, and joked that “there will be no sofa door ever since”.
There is also a endless discussion about the alleged “sexism” of the meeting. European Parliament MP Sophie Interveld listed “proof” on social media. When Erdogan met with his former male EU leader, the three leaders sat side by side in the same chair, she pointed out. “This is not a coincidence, it is deliberately doing it.”
The European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament, declared that “women should be recognized as their male colleagues.” Some netizens even directly turned Feng Delain P into “C bit” in the picture.
Michelle, who “takes her seat safely” at the scene, was criticized by netizens for “failing to maintain her colleagues”. Netizens said, “You should have refused to sit down until Feng DeLane had a seat.” Some netizens simply pointed out another “way” to Michelle – “sit on the sofa next to von der Leyen.”
It was also said, “I’m sad because Michelle missed an opportunity to show that Europe adheres to the principle of equality between men and women in all circumstances.”
In response, Michelle said on the evening of the 7th that he regretted the “different treatment and even despised the President of the European Commission”. However, he denied that he was “indifferent” to von der Leyen’s situation in the photo, saying that it was “a lot different from the facts”.
[Second round: Feng DeLingfang “confrontation” with the Turkish Foreign Minister]
The incident continued to ferment, but von der Leyen never responded directly to the matter. However, European Commission spokesman Eric Mame said that in fact, von der Leyen was surprised by this matter. “The President of the European Commission should be seated in the same way as the President of the European Council.”
Foreign media commented that ironically, the main purpose of the “squeezed” female leader of the EU was to get Turkey back into the Istanbul Convention. The Convention is an international treaty aimed at protecting women’s rights and interests.
Turkey announced a “de-offer” in March 2021, and officials in the country believe that domestic law is more protective of women than international treaties. However, von der Leyen said she was “concerned” about Turkey’s measures to uphold women’s rights.
García Pérez, MP of the European Parliament, said that Turkey not only withdrew from the Istanbul Pact, but now “has not prepared seats for the President of the European Commission” during its official visit, which is shameful.
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Chavushoğlu responded on the 8th, “There are some unfair accusations against Turkey … The conference held in Turkey is held in international etiquette.”
Chavush Olu also noted that seating arrangements were made on the advice of the EU side, “our concierge department met before and their [EU] requirements were met.”
[Third round: Italy, France and Turkey “choke each other”]
However, the aftermath of the incident continues to spread. After Turkey made a statement, some EU member states spoke out to condemn Turkey.
Italian Prime Minister Draghi took the lead in attacking Turkey on the 8th. Speaking of the “sofa door”, he said that Erdoğan’s move was to “humiliate” von der Leyen, and he “absolutely disagreed with Erdoğan’s behavior towards Chairman von der Leyen”.
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs also showed no weakness. As soon as Draghi’s words fell, it immediately summoned the Italian ambassador to Turkey to protest Draghi’s remarks.
French government spokesman Attar then said that the lack of chairs when von der Leyen negotiated with Turkey was “very bad and shocking”. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is expected to issue an official statement on this matter.
Who is the “spokesperson” of the EU? How to go in Turkish-European relations?
A “sofa door” quickly made Turkey and the European Union make headlines in major media. Whether this is a “etiquette mistake” or a “intentional neglect” is unknown at present.
Behind this embarrassing incident, the long-standing confusion about “who is the real spokesperson of the EU” has also been mentioned again.
According to the European Union Treaty, the European Commission ranks fourth in the “priority of senior officials of European institutions”, behind the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council of the European Union, according to the European Union Treaty. Therefore, Michelle has a higher position in diplomacy.
However, in practice, the President of the European Commission seems to have become the representative of “the closest EU to the head of government”. European Commission spokesman Mame said that von der Leyen and Michel “are both presidents of European institutions, so they have the same level of etiquette”.
On the other hand, will a small chair make the relationship between the EU and Turkey just beginning to heal and regenerate the gap?
In 2020, first of all, the war in Idlib region of Syria continued to escalate, and Turkey “opened the gates and released refugees” to pressure the European Union for support. Then, Greece and Cyprus once “woulder” with Turkey due to the problem of natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean; and on issues such as the conflict in the Naqqa region, combating terrorism and other issues Turkey, France and other countries are also continuous.
However, in recent days, the relationship between the EU and Turkey has tended to ease in many fields. Two EU leaders visited Turkey at the same time, which was rated as “rare”.
The reason is that for the EU, Turkey’s cooperation is indispensable for solving the problem of immigrants and refugees, and for Turkey, its economy and trade depend on EU support. In addition, according to analysis, Turkey has not completely abandoned the idea of joining the European Union.
However, the analysis believes that the improvement of the relationship between the EU and Turkey is mostly due to the fit of the interests of both sides. What exactly is the future relationship? It is still in the state of “seeing one step at a step”.