In a video about the uncomfortable moment in Ankara, von der Leyen seems unsure where to sit, points with his right hand and says “ehm” as Erdogan and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, take their seats .
Von der Leyen was eventually offered a seat on a nearby sofa across from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is ranked lower in diplomatic protocol.
In previous meetings, all three presidents have sat together.
Eric Mamer, chief spokesman for the European Commission, said von der Leyen “was clearly surprised and you can see that in the video.” He added that “it is difficult to assess the reasons why she was offered one type of seat rather than another, that is something you should ask the Turkish authorities about.”
He added that, regarding “the Commission’s view abroad, I can say that our President’s protocol level is exactly the same as that of the President of the European Council. Our President is a member of the European Council yourself and normally when she goes abroad , she is generally treated in the same way as the President of the European Council. “
Turkey firmly denied allegations that von der Leyen was treated unfairly because of her gender.
“We do not want to make a statement, but there are unfair allegations against Turkey about the importance we attach to women and other issues. Turkey is a deeply rooted state,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a press conference in Ankara on Thursday.
“Every time we visit, when we visit or host visitors, protocol teams meet before the visit and talk about the rules,” said Cavusoglu, adding that protocol teams from the EU and Turkey had met before the scheduled meeting.
“Turkey complied with the EU side’s demands during the meeting in the presidential room. In other words, the seating arrangement was based on the EU side’s proposals. Period.”
Michel blamed Turkey’s “strict interpretation” of the protocol rules for the diplomatic hiccups.
“Our visit was an important moment in the complex process of improving relations between the European Union and Turkey. It was the result of careful preparation and years of diplomatic efforts to bring this country to a more constructive approach in its relations with the EU,” he said and wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
“And despite all the good intentions, the strict interpretation of the protocol rules by the Turkish services led to a sad situation: The differentiated treatment of the President of the European Commission was reduced.”
Michel added: “While we realized the unfortunate nature of the situation, we decided not to make it worse if there was a public incident and at this early stage of our meeting we would prioritize the main point of the political discussion we were going to begin , Ursula and I, with our hosts. “