European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has revealed she felt ‘hurt’ and ‘alone’ during a summit with male leaders in Turkey when she was left without a chair.
The 6 April meeting in Ankara was arranged to mend the strained relationship between Turkey and the EU. It involved talks between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mrs von der Leyen and European Union council president Charles Michel.
But when they came to sit down, there were only two chairs. The two men took the chairs leaving the president of the commission standing and ultimately she had to sit on a sofa well away from the Turkish President and opposite the Turkish foreign minister, reported BBC News.
The incident has since been referred to as ‘sofagate’, Mr Michel later apologised for his role in the incident staying it had left him with sleepless nights and Turkey blamed the EU for the incident.
On Monday, in a speech to the European Parliament, the 62-year-old leader said sexism was at the root of the seating blunder.
“I am the first woman to be President of the European Commission. I am the President of the European Commission. And this is how I expected to be treated when visiting Turkey two weeks ago, like a Commission President, but I was not,” Mrs von der Leyen told EU lawmakers while emphasising that she see no reason on why she should have been treated differently to Mr Michel.
She said that she “cannot find any justification for the way” she was treated.
“So, I have to conclude, it happened because I am a woman. Would this have happened if I had worn a suit and a tie? In the pictures of previous meetings, I did not see any shortage of chairs. But then again, I did not see any woman in these pictures, either,” she said.
Turkey disputes the claim of misogyny, stating that seating arrangements were done so in line with the EU’s protocol, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said: “…The protocol, which was followed during the EU leaders’ visit, was in line with the European Union’s demands.”