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‘Ehm’: Gaffe leaving EU President without a chair highlights gender equality issue

Michel said the embarrassment was the result of the “strict interpretation” by Turkish services of protocol rules and regretted “the differentiated, even diminished, treatment of the President of the European Commission.”

In a statement released late on Wednesday, Michel said that although TV images could have given the impression he was “insensitive” to Von der Leyen’s uncomfortable situation, “nothing could be further from reality, nor from [his] deepest feelings.”

On social media, the diplomatic incident was abundantly commented on. European lawmaker Sophie in ’t Veld posted pictures of previous meetings between Michel’s and Von der Leyen’s predecessors with Erdogan, with the trio of men sitting in chairs next to each other.

“And no, it wasn’t a coincidence, it was deliberate,” in ’t Veld wrote on Twitter, questioning why Michel remained “silent.”

“‘Ehm’ is the new term for ‘that’s not how EU-Turkey relationship should be,’ said Sergey Lagodinsky, another member of the European Parliament, using the hashtags #GiveHerASeat and #womensrights.”

Last month, Erdogan pulled Turkey out of a key European convention aimed at combating violence against women, triggering criticism from EU officials. The move was a blow to Turkey’s women’s rights movement, which says domestic violence and murders of women are on the rise.

Von der Leyen called for Erdogan to reverse his decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention.

“Human rights issues are non-negotiable. We were very clear about that. We urge Turkey to reverse its decision because it is the first international binding instrument to combat violence against women and children,” she said.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is left without a chair as European Council chief Charles Michel and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan take a seat.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is left without a chair as European Council chief Charles Michel and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan take a seat.Credit:BBC

Asked whether the commission regarded the incident as specifically gender-related, Mamer said Von der Leyen travelled to Ankara as the president of an EU institution.

“Being a man or a woman does not change anything to the fact that she should have been seated according to the very same protocol arrangements as the two other participants,” Mamer said. “She seized the opportunity to specifically tackle the Istanbul convention and women’s rights. I believe that the message sent was clear.”

AP

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