EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel held their first talks Monday since a diplomatic gaffe in Turkey -- dubbed “sofagate” -- laid bare tensions between the bloc’s major institutions.
Brussels has been rattled by the incident in Ankara last week that saw von der Leyen left without a chair at talks with male counterparts Michel and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The awkward scene has snowballed into a scandal that has sparked allegations of sexism, intensified jockeying between the EU’s institutions and threatened to derail efforts to mend ties with Turkey.
European Council head Michel has faced flak for not appearing to support European Commission boss von der Leyen and has said he “hasn’t been sleeping well at night” due to regrets over the incident.
European Council President #CharlesMichel is suffering from bad nights due to his embarrassment over a seating arrangement incident at a meeting with President #Erdogan in #Ankara, he tells German newspaper Handelsblatt.https://t.co/uYiwyt3b9v pic.twitter.com/8f1tsZke4a— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) April 10, 2021
A Commission source said von der Leyen at the meeting on Monday “made clear that she will never allow such a situation to arise again”.
The former German defense minister was angered by the diplomatic slight in Ankara and is seeking to make sure that her role as head of the EU’s executive is treated on a par with Michel’s job running the body that brings together the bloc’s 27 leaders.
The two EU chiefs will meet tomorrow with heads of the European Parliament’s political groupings to give an account of events in Ankara after a clamor from lawmakers for them to appear before the body.