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The latest protocol quack between the EU and Turkey gained momentum on social networks with the hashtag “#SofaGate”. Brussels accuses Ankara of having reserved a diminished welcome for the President of the European Commission.

We are sometimes confronted with the occasion of family events such as a wedding: the arrangement of the guests can prove to be a source of tension. In diplomatic matters, these investment questions also arise with sometimes more serious consequences, as shown by the meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and European leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, on an official visit to Ankara on the 6th. April.

The President of the European Commission was thus confronted with a moment of loneliness when she noticed that only two armchairs were arranged in the large room planned for the publicized meeting with the trick head of state. Expressing rapid embarrassment in the face of the situation, Ursula von der Leyen finally settled on the sofa that had been assigned to her, behind the two men but in front of the head of Turkish diplomacy, Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The scene quickly provoked a wind of anger within the European Parliament where the major political groups deplored the image of disunity given to Ankara by the presidents of the institutions during their meeting with the Turkish president and asked them to come s ‘explain in plenary. The video of the incident was also widely relayed on social networks with the hashtag #SofaGate.

As AFP reports, Ursula von der Leyen on April 7 expressed her dissatisfaction at having been taken out, demanding to be treated as the equal of the President of the Council.

Its spokesperson affirmed that “the presidents of the two institutions have the same protocol rank” but the European Council, the body representing the member states, however indicated that its president had precedence over the Commission for the international protocol.

Charles Michel evokes the “manifest will to do well” of the Turkish executive

At the heart of the controversy because of his passivity during the event, the President of the European Council Charles Michel spoke the same evening on social networks in a publication where he particularly regretted “the differentiated treatment, or even reduced, of the President of the European Commission ”, while acknowledging to the teams of the Turkish executive“ a clear desire to do well ”. “The few images [de la scène] gave the impression that I would have been oblivious to this situation. Nothing is further neither from reality nor from my deep feelings ”, the former Belgian Prime Minister also wrote.

Ankara sweeps away criticism of the EU

Turkey for its part castigated on April 8 “unfair accusations” after the protocol affront felt by the President of the European Commission in Ankara, affirming that the arrangement of the seats at the heart of the controversy had been suggested by the European side.

“The EU’s demands have been respected. This means that the seating arrangement was made at their request. Our protocol services met before the meeting and their requests [de l’UE] were respected ”, declared the head of the Turkish diplomacy Mevlut Cavusoglu before adding:“ Turkey is a deeply rooted state and this is not the first time that we welcome foreign dignitaries. ”

At the start of 2021, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told ambassadors of European Union member countries that he wanted to “open a new page in relations between Turkey and the EU” after a year 2020 rich in tensions.