The president of the European commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the European council president, Charles Michel, met the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in Ankara on Tuesday. It appeared Von der Leyen, the sole attending female leader, was momentarily left without a seat – triggering an avalanche of criticism.
With only two chairs available, Von der Leyen sat on the sofa as Erdoğan and Michel sat on the chairs. “Ehm,” she muttered, with a small gesticulation directed at the occupied seats. Michel, who had appeared to make a bee-line for the top spot next to Erdoğan as the party entered, offered little evidence of regret.
The awkward scene was played out ahead of a three-hour meeting with Erdoğan where one of the issues raised by the EU leaders was women’s rights in light of Turkey’s withdrawal from a convention on gender-based violence.