Presidents of European Commission and European Council visit to Turkey, April 2021

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Publication Date 2021
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Information Guide concerning the visit of the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the President of the European Council Charles Michel to Turkey on 6 April 2021 and its aftermath.

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The two leaders of the European Union (EU) visited Turkey for a meeting with the country's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which followed up on a previous discussion on the EU-Turkey relations held by the European Council on 25 March 2021. Besides the overall bilateral relations, the two sides also discussed matters relating to the respect of fundamental right and the rule of law, migration and outstanding regional issues.

This meeting was overshadowed by an incident concerning protocol during a photo-op, in what became known as Sofagate. The situation was created when Ms von der Leyen was left standing due to a lack of chairs placed in front of the Turkish and EU flags. The President of the European Commission eventually sat on a sofa equivalent to one placed for Turkey's Foreign Affairs minister.

The incident prompted allegations of sexism and cast a spotlight on the longstanding confusion over who really speaks for the European Union. Criticism was directed at Turkish authorities but also at the President of the European Council, who seemed not to be willing to set things right on the spot. An argument over diplomatic protocol arose between the two EU institutions as a result. The European Parliament summoned the two leaders for a discussion with the plenary on the incident at a session on 26 April 2021.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
Wikipedia: Sofagate
Euro|topics, April 2021: Sofagate: What are the lessons for the EU?
Politico, 12/04/2021: Europe deserves Erdoğan’s sofa
Balkan Insight: Opinion, 14/04/2021: ‘Sofagate’ Revealed Uncomfortable Truth About EU Turkey Relations

Politico, 07/04/2021: Sofa, so bad: Turkish seating snafu hits von der Leyen, Michel
France24, 07/04/2021: ‘Sofagate’: Turkey seeks to shift blame for seating scandal that left EU chief standing
Deutsche Welle, 07/04/2021: Brussels chides Turkey on 'sofagate' von der Leyen snub
VOA News, 07/04/2021: EU-Turkey Meeting Turns Awkward as Von der Leyen Left Without Chair
EurActiv, 07/04/2021: ‘Divan-gate’: Brussels angry over von der Leyen Turkey chair snub
RTÉ News, 07/04/2021: Von der Leyen snubbed at EU-Erdogan talks
The Guardian, 07/04/2021: Ursula von der Leyen snubbed in chair gaffe at EU-Erdoğan talks
Politico, 08/04/2021: Charles Michel on Sofagate: ‘I deeply regret this situation’
Anadolu Agency, 08/04/2021: Michel, von der Leyen are 'inexperienced strikers’
Hürriyet Daily News, 08/04/2021: Protocol for von der Leyen conducted in line with EU’s suggestions: Minister
EurActiv, 08/04/2021: ‘Sofa-gate’ brings more headaches for the EU
Deutsche Welle, 08/04/2021: EU and Turkey's 'sofagate' blame game enters round 2
Politico, 08/04/2021: MEPs want EU leaders to answer for ‘Sofagate’ in Parliament
BBC News, 09/04/2021: Turkey blames EU in 'sofagate' diplomatic spat
Malta Today, 09/04/2021: ‘Sofagate’: MEPs issue condemnation of Erdoğan’s disrespect and inaction from Michel
Reuters, 10/04/2021: EU's Michel says he's sleeping badly after sofa gaffe in Turkey
Politico, 12/04/2021: Von der Leyen, Michel to discuss Turkey visit with Parliament leaders
Politico, 12/04/2021: Thousands sign petition calling for Charles Michel’s resignation over Sofagate
Euronews, 13/04/2021: Michel and von der Leyen to face MEPs after 'Sofagate' gaffe in Turkey
Euronews, 14/04/2021: 'Sofagate': Senior MEP 'deeply offended' by chair gaffe in Turkey
Politico, 26/04/2021: Von der Leyen on Sofagate: ‘It happened because I am a woman’
Deutsche Welle, 26/04/2021: 'Sofagate:' Ursula von der Leyen speaks of sexism after Turkey snub
The Guardian, 26/04/2021: ‘Sofagate’ snub would not have happened to a man – Von der Leyen
BBC News, 27/04/2021: Sofagate: EU chief Ursula von der Leyen blames sexism for Turkey chair snub
EurActiv, 27/04/2021: Von der Leyen says ‘sofagate’ shows need to tackle sexism
Euronews, 27/04/2021: Sofagate: von der Leyen hits out saying seating snub in Turkey 'happened because I was a woman'

European Commission: Statement by President von der Leyen following the meeting with Turkish President Erdoğan (6 April 2021)
European Council: News, 06/04/2021: President Michel in Turkey: "Our engagement will be progressive, proportional and reversible"
European Council: Press Release, 06/04/2021: Remarks by President Charles Michel after his meeting in Ankara with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
European Commission: Speech by President von der Leyen at the European Parliament Plenary on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 25-26 March 2021 and the outcome of the high-level meeting between the EU and Turkey (26 April 2021)
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 26/04/2021: Report by President Charles Michel to the European Parliament plenary session
European Parliament: Press Release, 26/04/2021: EU-Turkey at centre of plenary debate with Presidents Michel and von der Leyen

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