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Female EU President Not Being Offered Chair In Meeting With Turkish President Reeks Of Sexism

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At a time when the United States has seen history unfold with Kamala Harris becoming the first woman Vice President, and with work being underway to deal with issues like the gender pay gap and gender equality, there happen to be still some incidents that send us right back to the caveman era. 

The most recent example of this was when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had traveled to Turkey on Wednesday (April 08) along with European Council President Charles Michel to meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Despite there being three leaders present during the meeting, there were only two chairs kept in the room, and to von der Leyen's surprise, she wasn't offered a single one despite being the only woman in the talks. 

Yikes. EU Commission Prez Ursula von der Leyen gets no chair in meeting with #Turkey’s Erdogan.

As EU Council chief Charles Michel is ushered in, seated next to Erdogan, the senior woman official looks around, says “Erm”, before ending up on sofa:

— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) April 7, 2021

 Von der Leyen, who is the first female lead of the EU executive, was taken aback and could only gesture in disbelief when Michel took the only remaining center-stage seat alongside Erdogan. 

Footage of the meeting showed Von der Leyen uttering a surprised sigh after seeing the awkward game of musical chairs unfold right before her, before being relegated to the sofa adjacent to the chairs. 

Yikes. EU Commission Prez Ursula von der Leyen gets no chair in meeting with #Turkey’s Erdogan.

As EU Council chief Charles Michel is ushered in, seated next to Erdogan, the senior woman official looks around, says “Erm”, before ending up on sofa:

— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) April 7, 2021

 Following the meeting, however, the EU executive arm's spokesman, Eric Mamer, released a statement saying, "The president of the Commission was clearly surprised." 

"The president (von der Leyen) should have been seated in exactly the same manner as the president of the European Council and the Turkish president."

There was no immediate response to the request for comment from the Turkish government. 

However, as per reports, a member of the European Parliament, Sophie in't Veld, asked why Michel had not reacted to the distasteful incident. 

Later, on the same day, Michel in a Facebook post admitted that the incident was "regrettable" and caused by "Turkish authorities’ strict interpretation of protocol rules".

`The 45-year-old Belgian leader said he decided against a public confrontation.

As per an EU official, who declined to be named, any public confrontation would have resulted in provoking a "protocol and political incident."

"Turkey meant no disrespect. It extended a very courteous welcome to both presidents and strictly adhered to international protocol." the official said. 

However, in the past when Turkish leaders had visited Brussels, three chairs had been provided for the meeting with the heads of the Commission and European Council.

In the past, three chairs were provided when the Turkish leader visited Brussels for talks with heads of the Commission and the European Council.

According to EU spokesman, von der Leyen still decided not to make "an issue out of it" and in the conversation brought up women's rights and the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, from which Turkey withdrew in March.

Good first meeting with President @RTErdogan. Turkey has shown interest in re-engaging with the EU in a constructive way.

We are ready to work on a new momentum in our relationship ahead of the June #EUCO.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) April 6, 2021

While the 62-year-old Brussels-born German leader chose to take the high road, viewers reading about the incident could not choose to let the incident slide down just like that. Here are some of their reactions on the microblogging website Twitter:

Truly shocking, Von Der Leyen is possibly one of the most important politicians in the world today. Turkey should hang it's head in shame

— Andy_tradesmantrucker (@Andytrdmntrucka) April 7, 2021

Are you kidding me????!!! Disgusting!! She looks as angry as I feel!!! Do better, people!

— One Voice (@Resist4Dem) April 8, 2021

Charles Michel fault for sitting down when he should have gestured to her.

— ملکMalik (@Malik__73) April 7, 2021

Why are men so jealous of smart women?

I admire their physical strength.

But they cringe at our intelligence.

— Terra Cotta (@TerraCo90720232) April 7, 2021

Charles Michel should be standing up for Gender Equality and European Values and refusing to sit down until both he and Ursula von der Leyen were given chairs. Sexist!

— Smartipants (@smartindc) April 7, 2021

Fact: that's not his culture apparently. However much I find it distasteful, I will not project my values onto him. However, the EU man should have sat with the lady on the couch in a united front. More mad at him.

— Tippypivrad (@tippypivrad) April 7, 2021

The senior woman official should have walked out!

— Atiya Izhar (@AtiyaIzhar4) April 7, 2021

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