Share article:
Share article:

‘Sofagate’ was not just a diplomatic incident

Thursday, 15 April 2021
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
EC - Audiovisual Service

What happened in Ankara during the summit between the President of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen, the President of the Council of the European Union Charles Michel, and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was not only a diplomatic incident but was a matter of a display of force.

Ursula von der Leyen was left without a chair and was forced first to wait for standing, then to sit on a sofa, in front of the two men sitting on an armchair next to each other.

The criticism did not come only for the Turkish president. Charles Michel was also criticized for immediately adapting without missing a beat.

Ursula Von der Leyen let the diplomatic incident slide. The president of the European Commission preferred to pursue the objective of the mission of the two European officials in Turkey: to revive relations between the two countries after months of tension at the level of international relations.

The truth is that Erdogan is a dictator and no one should be afraid to say it candidly. The Turkish president as a dictator represents a political figure with whom a balance must be found between the frankness of dissent and the need for cooperation.

This last statement sums up the position taken by many of the European leaders. Mario Draghi, former president of the ECB, was among the first European politicians to support this antithetical position to Erdogan.

“Prime Minister Draghi is right, under the leadership of President Erdogan Turkey has moved away from the rule of law, democracy, and fundamental freedoms in the last decade.” Thus the president of the EPP group Manfred Weber in a statement sent to the Italian media.

Turkey “is not a free country for all its citizens – added Weber – if Europe wants to build a constructive partnership with countries like Turkey, and it is in our strategic interest to do so, we should speak clearly and honestly about the facts on the ground.”

Despite the debate that has opened on the question of the protocol observed during the summit in Turkey, what happened in Ankara has a significant symbolic weight.

‘Sofagate’ has now become also a diplomatic clash between Italy and Turkey, but to put a stop to Erdogan’s machismo, something else will be needed.