Brussels 08.04.2021 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was left without a seat, and had to sit on a nearby sofa, as the bloc’s leaders met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Only two chairs were set up for the meeting, which involved Ursula von der Leyen, President Erdogan, and EU Council President Charles Michel.
When consulted by Politico Magazine the former EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that when he travelled with the European Council presidents during his term at the helm of the Commission, it was “clear for everyone that, from a protocol point of view, the president of the Council is No. 1, and the president of the Commission is No. 2.”
“When I was traveling with Tusk or Van Rompuy, I always respected that protocol order,” Juncker told POLITICO in a phone interview, referring to the two former Council presidents. “Normally I had a chair next to the chair of the president of the Council, but sometimes it happened that I was sitting on a sofa.”
Nevertheless, the former Commission chief suggested that von der Leyen could have been treated differently.
“I think it would have been better to have her sitting at the same level” as Michel, “but from a protocol point of view the president of the Council is No. 1.”
Asked if he believes the episode in Ankara merits a controversy, the former president was dismissive.
Some critics of President Erdogan have underlined that he is not arranging the protocol himself, and officially the President of the European Commission is the fourth in the line after the President of the European Parliament, the President of the Council (Charles Michel), the President of the rotating presidency, now Portugal, and finally the boss of all the civil servants – Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commmission.