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It was because I am a woman claims von der Leyen – Really

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In April last year, there were not enough chairs for von der Leyen to sit down at a meeting in Turkey with Erdogan and Michel. The Turkish side explained back then that the meeting may have taken place in a room not prepared for the event. The discomfiture continued after von der Leyen was relegated to a sofa, thus giving it the name ‘sofagate.’

Ursula von der Leyen, un-elected President of the European Commission, found herself in the humiliating position of being completely ignored by a dignitary attending the EU’s Africa summit on Friday.

The unpleasant lapse, in which Ugandan Foreign Minister Jeje Odongo walked past the ‘invisible’ von der Leyen took place at a photo op, with Odongo apparently offering only a little acknowledgement and no handshake to the Commission president.

Odongo walked past von der Leyen at the Africa summit meet and greet before shaking hands with European Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron. He then took his spot in the group portrait between von der Leyen and Michel.

The gaffe was largely avoided this time when Macron gallantly (well, he is French) stepped in and allegedly told Odongo that he might want to greet the Commission president. The incident brought to mind uneasy parallels with the ‘Sofagate’ diplomatic protocol breach in Turkey last year.

In that event, Michel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sat in elegant chairs next to each other, while von der Leyen sat on a sofa. Later, von der Leyen explained, ‘It happened because I am a woman.’ Really? Isn’t that Leyen the excuses on a little bit thick?

Michel admitted then that he might have made a mistake when he sat down despite the lack of a chair for his colleague and expressed regret for the situation.


The poignancy of the situation was given by Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention for the Protection of Women, for which it has been criticized in the EU.

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