EU fumes over Turkey ‘sofagate’ furore | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 09, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:28 AM, April 09, 2021

EU fumes over Turkey ‘sofagate’ furore

EU lawmakers yesterday called for the bloc's top two officials to explain a snowballing diplomatic scandal that saw Commission head Ursula von der Leyen left without a chair at talks with Turkey's president. 

The furore -- dubbed "sofagate" online -- has sparked a slew of accusations over Ankara's attitude to women and the EU, sexism in Brussels, and internal political wrangling between the bloc's institutions.

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It all centred on an awkward moment at the start of talks between von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Tuesday.

The well-appointed room the three leaders walked into had only two chairs arranged next to the corresponding EU and Turkish flag.

Erdogan and Michel seated themselves while von der Leyen -- whose diplomatic rank is the same as that of the two men -- was left standing.

"Ehm," she said pointedly while appearing to spread her arms in wonder.

Official images later showed her seated on a sofa opposite one taken by Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

"EU-Turkey relations are crucial. But EU unity and respect for human rights, including women's rights, are also key," Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia Perez, the head of the Socialist & Democrats grouping in parliament, wrote on Twitter.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu deflected blame from Ankara and said the seating arrangements were made "in line with the EU suggestion. Period".

Michel drew flak in Brussels for seeming not to support his colleague and readily accepting the only available seat.

In a Facebook post he insisted "nothing is further from the reality or my deepest feelings" and said the "regrettable" scene was down to a Turkish protocol blunder.  

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