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

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Publication Date 2021
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Summary:

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.

Further information:

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 Link(s)
Commentary and Analysis
Wikipedia: Sofagate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofagate
Euro|topics, April 2021: Sofagate: What are the lessons for the EU? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/259168/
Politico, 12/04/2021: Europe deserves Erdoğan’s sofa https://www.politico.eu/article/europe-deserves-erdogans-sofa/
Balkan Insight: Opinion, 14/04/2021: ‘Sofagate’ Revealed Uncomfortable Truth About EU Turkey Relations https://balkaninsight.com/2021/04/14/sofagate-revealed-uncomfortable-truth-about-eu-turkey-relations/

News
Politico, 07/04/2021: Sofa, so bad: Turkish seating snafu hits von der Leyen, Michel https://www.politico.eu/article/sofagate-ursula-von-der-leyen-turkey-sofa-charles-michel-recep-tayyip-erdogan/
France24, 07/04/2021: ‘Sofagate’: Turkey seeks to shift blame for seating scandal that left EU chief standing https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20210407-sofagate-protocol-snafu-turkey-von-der-leyen-standing
Deutsche Welle, 07/04/2021: Brussels chides Turkey on 'sofagate' von der Leyen snub https://p.dw.com/p/3rgeX
VOA News, 07/04/2021: EU-Turkey Meeting Turns Awkward as Von der Leyen Left Without Chair https://www.voanews.com/europe/eu-turkey-meeting-turns-awkward-von-der-leyen-left-without-chair
EurActiv, 07/04/2021: ‘Divan-gate’: Brussels angry over von der Leyen Turkey chair snub https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/divan-gate-brussels-angry-over-von-der-leyen-turkey-chair-snub/
RTÉ News, 07/04/2021: Von der Leyen snubbed at EU-Erdogan talks https://www.rte.ie/news/world/2021/0407/1208345-eu-turkey/
The Guardian, 07/04/2021: Ursula von der Leyen snubbed in chair gaffe at EU-Erdoğan talks https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/07/ursula-von-der-leyen-snubbed-in-chair-gaffe-at-eu-erdogan-talks
Politico, 08/04/2021: Charles Michel on Sofagate: ‘I deeply regret this situation’ https://www.politico.eu/article/charles-michel-admits-mistake-in-sofagate/
Anadolu Agency, 08/04/2021: Michel, von der Leyen are 'inexperienced strikers’ https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/michel-von-der-leyen-are-inexperienced-strikers-/2205662
Hürriyet Daily News, 08/04/2021: Protocol for von der Leyen conducted in line with EU’s suggestions: Minister https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/relations-with-eu-in-better-shape-fm-cavusoglu-163789
EurActiv, 08/04/2021: ‘Sofa-gate’ brings more headaches for the EU https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/sofa-gate-brings-more-headaches-for-the-eu/
Deutsche Welle, 08/04/2021: EU and Turkey's 'sofagate' blame game enters round 2 https://p.dw.com/p/3rjhN
Politico, 08/04/2021: MEPs want EU leaders to answer for ‘Sofagate’ in Parliament https://www.politico.eu/article/meps-european-parliament-sofagate-ursula-von-der-leyen-charles-michel/
BBC News, 09/04/2021: Turkey blames EU in 'sofagate' diplomatic spat https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/56676344
Malta Today, 09/04/2021: ‘Sofagate’: MEPs issue condemnation of Erdoğan’s disrespect and inaction from Michel https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/ewropej/108855/sofagate_meps_issue_condemnation_of_erdoans_disrespect_and_inaction_from_michel
Reuters, 10/04/2021: EU's Michel says he's sleeping badly after sofa gaffe in Turkey https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN2BX084
Politico, 12/04/2021: Von der Leyen, Michel to discuss Turkey visit with Parliament leaders https://www.politico.eu/article/ursula-von-der-leyen-charles-michel-to-discuss-turkey-visit-sofagate/
Politico, 12/04/2021: Thousands sign petition calling for Charles Michel’s resignation over Sofagate https://www.politico.eu/article/thousands-sign-petition-demanding-eu-council-president-charles-michel-resignation-over-sofagate/
Euronews, 13/04/2021: Michel and von der Leyen to face MEPs after 'Sofagate' gaffe in Turkey https://www.euronews.com/2021/04/13/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 https://www.euronews.com/2021/04/14/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’ https://www.politico.eu/article/sofagate-turkey-sofa-ursula-von-der-leyen-recep-tayyip-erdogan-charles-michel-it-happened-because-i-am-a-woman/
Deutsche Welle, 26/04/2021: 'Sofagate:' Ursula von der Leyen speaks of sexism after Turkey snub https://p.dw.com/p/3sbj0
The Guardian, 26/04/2021: ‘Sofagate’ snub would not have happened to a man – Von der Leyen https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/26/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 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-56896734
EurActiv, 27/04/2021: Von der Leyen says ‘sofagate’ shows need to tackle sexism https://www.euractiv.com/section/non-discrimination/news/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' https://www.euronews.com/2021/04/27/sofagate-von-der-leyen-hits-out-saying-seating-snub-in-turkey-happened-because-i-was-a-wom

Official
European Commission: Statement by President von der Leyen following the meeting with Turkish President Erdoğan (6 April 2021) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_21_1603
European Council: News, 06/04/2021: President Michel in Turkey: "Our engagement will be progressive, proportional and reversible" https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/european-council/president/news/2021/04/06/20210406-pec-in-ankara/
European Council: Press Release, 06/04/2021: Remarks by President Charles Michel after his meeting in Ankara with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/04/06/remarks-by-president-charles-michel-after-his-meeting-in-ankara-with-president-recep-tayyip-erdogan/
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) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/speech_21_1965
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 26/04/2021: Report by President Charles Michel to the European Parliament plenary session https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/04/26/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 https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20210422IPR02619/

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