'Sofagate': Senior MEP 'deeply offended' by chair gaffe in Turkey

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By Bryan Carter
Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel arrive for a meeting at the European Parliament on Tuesday
Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel arrive for a meeting at the European Parliament on Tuesday   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

The socialist leader in the European Parliament has told Euronews she was "deeply offended" by the "Sofagate" incident in Turkey.

Ursula von der Leyen, the first female president of the European Commission, was left surprised after Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Charles Michel took the top seats at an EU-Turkey meeting, leaving her to sit on a nearby sofa. 

The diplomatic gaffe caused uproar and comes with gender equality in the spotlight in Turkey after the country pulled out of a treaty aimed at stopping domestic violence. 

On Tuesday, leaders of European Parliament groupings **held discussions with von der Leyen and Michel**to hear their version of events.

Despite saying she was offended by the incident, Iratxe García Pérez, the Socialist and Democrats chair in the parliament, told Euronews the meeting was a step in the right direction.

"We have been able to hear in the voice of the President of the [European] Council Charles Michel, apologies for the consequences that this situation has caused. And I think it is a first step," García Pérez said.

"As a woman, as a European and as a Social Democrat, I have accepted his apologies because obviously as a woman, as European and as a Social Democrat I felt offended by that image."

Renew Europe chair tweets following the meeting with the Council and Commission presidents

The parliamentary leaders also asked Michel and von der Leyen to present, before the end of April, concrete proposals that would avoid a new protocol failure.

Chair of the Renew Europe Group, Dacian Cioloş, who attended Tuesday's meeting said in a tweet afterwards that the Conference on the Future of Europe was the place to provide clarity on issues like "Sofagate".

Maroš Šefčovič, the EU commissioner in charge of inter-institutional relations, also weighed in on the matter, telling Euronews that he was confident that the sofa incident will be overcome.

"I am sure that both leaders want to focus on the future, on the work ahead, making sure that Europe is not only well represented... but our interests are properly defended wherever it is necessary," Šefčovič said.