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The incident with chairs in Ankara: What lessons will the EU learn?

The accommodation of the guests is, apparently, the only thing that will remain in the memory of the visit of the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and the head of the European Council Charles Michel to Ankara. Charles Michel and Erdogan sat in the center of the room, in adjacent chairs, while von der Leyen had to settle for a modest sofa in the distance. Photos from previous visits of other officials to the Turkish president show that there is enough space for three people in this room — on three chairs.

Not a casual gesture

The European Union must reconsider its attitude to Turkey, — demands Turun Sanomat:

“The purpose of this propaganda maneuver was to publicly slap the EU in the face. This vulgar gesture will be remembered as an attempt to humiliate von der Leyen, all the women of the planet — and the European Union as such. Last month, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention aimed at combating violence against women. In Turkey, the situation with women's rights is not so good, and domestic violence is a serious problem. During the rule of Erdogan, the situation in the country has deteriorated in terms of the protection of human rights, and democratic principles have been thoroughly eroded. The EU should think carefully about what issues — and on what terms — it is willing to cooperate with Ankara.”

Europe has no clear leader

According to Le Soir, this is another argument in favor of the fact that the EU needs a clearer distribution of roles, primarily in foreign policy:

“This episode clearly and painfully demonstrated the systemic problem that has long plagued the EU-just remember the famous exclamation of Henry Kissinger:' You say, Europe? Is there a specific number?' ... In 2017, a lot of noise was made by the proposal of the then President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who allowed himself to reflect in the spirit of what if 'there would be only one captain at the helm of the ship Europe'? However, it all ended with some reflections. Meanwhile, the above-mentioned problem is only getting worse on the international stage due to the obvious rivalry between Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen (as well as between their retinues). I must say, the previous tandems worked more harmoniously.”

Shameful squabbles

Behind this scandal is also the struggle for the distribution of competencies in the EU, — says De Volkskrant:

“The whole world will remember the image of a weak and squabbling European Union. If European Commission officials blame the scandal on the vanity and ambition of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the administration of the latter blames the tough position of von der Leyen... Although a certain tension between Michel and von der Leyen is inevitable, both of them, by virtue of their activities, are the “face” of the European Union. ... At the same time, it should be recognized that both Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen are distinguished by a much greater thirst for fame and recognition [than was the case among their predecessors]. ... And the situation has changed radically. The votes of the heads of government of the member states of the community are gaining more and more weight in the EU. ... And this does not make Michel's position enviable: 27 leaders loom over him, and next to him is the strong president of the European Commission.”

The EU is once again a laughing stock

This year, the EU is getting into a mess in the foreign policy sphere for the second time, “ the Wiener Zeitung notes:

“The deliberate desire to hurt von der Leyen, for whom there was no chair next to Erdogan and Michel and who had to sit on the sofa to the side, ... perfectly reflects the current state of Turkish-European relations. ... All the more disappointing was Michel, who instead of supporting his colleague in the leadership of the European Union, simply sat down next to Erdogan. During their visits to authoritarian states outside the EU, the highest officials of the community have recently appeared in a bad light: for example, in February in Moscow, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrel, was exposed to general ridicule. Now Erdogan has publicly humiliated one of the EU's top leaders and in the presence of another top EU official. In diplomacy, small gestures express both strength and determination. The EU has once again — to its own detriment! — missed an opportunity to prove its strength.”

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