When European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was visiting Turkey along with her associates and fellow top EU officials, little did she expect her seat (or the lack of it) to make headlines.
During her visit to Ankara on Wednesday, Ursula von der Leyen and other top officials of the EU were meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan when the Turkey leader and her EU colleague walked into the room along with her and took the only two chairs available.
This left Ursula von der Leyen in an awkward position, standing in the middle and looking surprised that there were only two chairs available in the room for the meeting and the two men had already occupied them.
Ursula von der Leyen kept standing as European Council President Michel and Turkish President Erdogan took the seats at the meeting. She was later accommodated on a sofa in the room.April 6, 2021
In a video doing the rounds on social media, Ursula von der Leyen, the only woman leader in the room can be heard sighing in disbelief while gesturing with her hand at the awkward turn of events. The European Commission president was left lingering in the middle of the room for a brief period before the seating arrangement could be figured out.
"The president of the Commission was clearly surprised," said the EU executive's spokesman, Eric Mamer, who added, "The president should have been seated in exactly the same manner as the president of the European Council and the Turkish president."
While the European Commission has not stopped short of voicing its leader's irritation at the seating faux pas, Turkey has refrained from a direct comment.
#GiveHerASeat trends on Twitter
Meanwhile, a video of the incident has created a storm on Twitter with users across Europe trending the hashtag #GiveHerASeat.
Sharing the video, a European Parliament member wrote: "Ehm" is the new term for "that’s not how EU-Turkey relationship should be". #GiveHerASeat #EU #Turkey #womensrights
Two presidents visited Turkey. Only the man was offered a chair. A protocol mishap involving Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, was cited by critics as symbolic of Turkey’s treatment of women https://t.co/RfgCcoJNkg pic.twitter.com/Zu6sFPdYJo— Andreas Harsono (@andreasharsono) April 7, 2021
Another user wrote: Doesn’t matter if the 3d chair omission was sexist, political or an honest mistake. It’s still a missed opportunity for @eucopresident to do the right thing: Stand by @vonderleyen and wait until an extra chair is brought. #SofaGate #GiveHerASeat #CharlesMichel #vonderLeyen
Yet another user wrote: As much as the situation is annoying, Charles Michel’s attitude ‘so not to not make matters worse by causing a public scene’ is too. Women can speak up for themselves, but allies are crucial. If something is wrong, something needs to be said right away to correct it #GiveHerASeat.