Turkey chair snub happened because I was a woman: EU Chief

·2-min read
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Brussels [Belgium], April 27 (ANI): European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said sexism was to blame for an incident where she was left awkwardly standing while her male colleague sat during her last visit to Turkey earlier this month.

According to CNN, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan's meeting with the European Union's two presidents raised eyebrows after von der Leyen was left standing while her male counterparts settled into two gilded chairs at the focal point of the room.

Von der Leyen told the European Parliament on Monday that she could not find "any justification" for the way she was treated.

"I cannot find any justification for the way I was treated in the European Treaties. So, I have to conclude, it happened because I am a woman," she said.

"Would this have happened if I had worn a suit and a tie?" she asked.

"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," the Commission president pointed out.

CNN further reported that in a video of the moment in Ankara, von der Leyen seems unsure of where to sit, gestures with her right hand and says "ehm" as Erdogan and European Council President Charles Michel take their seats.

Von der Leyen was eventually offered a seat on a nearby sofa, opposite Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who occupies a lower-status rank in diplomatic protocol.

"Many of you will have made quite similar experiences in the past. Especially the female members of this House, I am sure, know exactly how I felt. I felt hurt and left alone: As a woman and as a European. Because this is not about seating arrangements or protocol. This goes to the core of who we are," she said.

"This goes to the values our Union stands for. And this shows how far we still have to go before women are treated as equals. Always, and everywhere," Von der Leyen added.

The president went on to thank the cameramen who filmed the incident and "the short video of my arrival immediately went viral and caused headlines around the world.

"There was no need for subtitles. There was no need for translations. The images spoke for themselves," she said.

However, CNN reported, Turkey strongly rejected accusations that von der Leyen was treated unfairly due to her gender.

"We would not want to come up with a statement but there are unfair accusations towards Turkey about the importance that we give to women and about other issues. Turkey is a rooted state," Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara on April 8. (ANI)