Turkey on Thursday found the accusations of disregard for the president of the European Commission unfair during her visit to Ankara, ensuring that the seating arrangement for the meeting was suggested by the European team. The European Parliament has already asked to schedule a debate with the presidents of the Council and the European Commission to clarify the incident.
The criticism came after, in a meeting held on Wednesday in Ankara, only the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, were entitled to seats, which led the European Commission to protest against O episode already known as “sofagate”.
The video footage of Erdogan and Michel’s arrival at the presidential palace for the meeting shows the President of the Commission to express his surprise with the seat reserved for him, on a side sofa in front of the head of Turkish diplomacy, while the two male leaders sat on chairs located in the prime area of the hall, framed by the flags of Turkey and the EU.
In a press conference held this Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, guaranteed that the seating arrangement respected the European Union team suggestion.
“The EU’s requests were respected. This means that seating arrangements have been made at your request. Our protocol services met before the meeting and their requests (from the EU) were respected ”, assured the minister.
“The charges against Turkey are unfair”, he said, recalling that “this is not the first time that Turkey has received foreign dignitaries”.
Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey felt obliged to clarify in view of the “accusations that were targeted”.
On Wednesday, the European Commission expressed its dissatisfaction with the diplomatic treatment reserved for President Von the Leyen at the meeting in Ankara, the institution’s spokesman argued that “the president should have been treated in exactly the same way as the president of the European Council and the Turkish president”.
As for the attitude of Charles Michel, who in the images sees himself taking his place next to Erdogan and extending his legs while Von der Leyen opened his arms in a questioning way, the Commission spokesman declined to comment.
Charles Michel reacted, however, recognizing that “the few images that were released gave the impression ”that“ it would have been insensitive to this situation ”, but he refused to have that intention, invoking his “deep feelings” and “essential respect principles”.
“Despite a clear desire to do well, the Turkish services’ strict interpretation of the protocol rules produced a disconcerting situation: the differentiated or even disregarded treatment of the President of the European Commission,” said Michel.
European Parliament calls for debate to clarify visit
Meanwhile, the two main political families of the European Parliament (EP) have asked for the scheduling of a debate with the presidents of the Council and the European Commission, to discuss their travel to Turkey after the diplomatic incident that occurred.
“The visit to Ankara by Presidents Von der Leyen (of the European Commission) and Michel (of the European Council) should have been a message of firmness and unity in Europe’s approach to Turkey. Unfortunately, it has become a disunity symbol, taking into account that the presidents did not stay together when it was necessary ”, reads a communiqué published this Thursday by the leader of the European People’s Party (PPE), Manfred Weber.
In addition to the “failure” in the expression of “unity” between the two leaders, Weber stresses that he “needs to know” the themes that Charles Michel “put on the table”, taking into account that “the mentioned issues need to have EP approval“.
Manfred Weber thus says he is “extremely concerned” about the commitments made by Charles Michel with regard to “visas and customs fees”, as there were no “concrete and lasting changes in Turkey’s policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, in relation to Cyprus. ”And the EU’s external borders.
“In addition, the visit did not show our broader concerns about the President’s attacks [da Turquia, Recep Tayyip] Erdogan to civil society and political prisoners in the country. These issues need to be clarified, so we will request a plenary debate attended by the two presidents“, Points out the PPE leader.
Also the leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Iratxe García Perez, revealed, through her official Twitter account, that she asked for a debate to be scheduled “to clarify what happened” and to define “how to respect the EU institutions ”.
“Relations between the EU and Turkey are crucial. But unity and respect for human rights, including women’s rights, are also fundamental ”, reads the message from the leader of the socialist.
The request for the scheduling of a debate by the two main European political families will be for the next plenary session, which will take place between 26 and 29 April.