Ursula von der Leyen listens to Charles Michel this Monday at the session of the European Parliament in Brussels.OLIVIER HOSLET / EFE
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has made it clear on Monday that she is not willing to turn the page on the sofa incident in Ankara and has taken advantage of her appearance in the European Parliament to attack the President of the European Council, Charles again. Michel. "I felt hurt and I felt alone, as a woman and as a European," said Von der Leyen in the plenary session of Parliament dedicated to analyzing relations with Turkey. Michel has again apologized for what he has described as "a diplomatic incident" and has assured that a situation like the one that occurred in the Turkish capital, in which he sat next to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will not be repeated. and left Von der Leyen relegated to the background on a sofa.
"Thanks to the cameras, my image went viral, but every day there are thousands of women who suffer much more serious incidents that no one sees," said a combative Von der Leyen in a steely tone that the MEPs present in the hemicycle have heard in solemn silence.
The first joint appearance of the President of the Council and the President of the Commission since their trip to Turkey was announced as the propitious occasion to make peace between the two institutional figures.
But Von der Leyen has not yielded one iota and has maintained a very fighting attitude, turning the image of Ankara into the symbol of the unacceptable humiliations that many women still suffer daily in Europe.
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Since the shock of April 7, Michel has tried to consider an incident over, which he explains as follows: "Our protocol services did not have access to the room before the meeting and the Commission's protocol services did not travel to Ankara."
The President of the Council has assured in plenary session: "Von der Leyen and I have reached a compromise so that such a situation does not repeat itself."
But the president of the Commission, visibly hurt, has not acknowledged receipt, at least in public, of the apologies presented by Michel and her speech has been as harsh as the one she made during a first conciliation meeting behind closed doors, also held in the Parlament. “I am the first woman to hold the presidency of the Commission. I am the President of the Commission and I hope to be treated as such. But [in Ankara] I wasn't ”.
The main parliamentary groups have been inclined to consider Ankara's diplomatic fiasco over. The president of the group of the European People's Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, charged more the inks against the Turkish side and took advantage of the so-called
to reaffirm his position: "Turkey is an important partner, but it can never be a member of the EU." The lukewarm attitude of the PPE has not prevented the vice president of the group, Esteban González Pons, from having starred in one of the harshest interventions against Michel, describing his lack of reaction in Ankara as an unfortunate example of “macho culture; that of men, first ”.
The leader of the Socialists, the MEP Iratxe García, has been very indignant, who has accused other groups (popular, liberal and green) of trying to turn off the
turning the session into a debate on relations with Turkey and the conclusions of the last European Council, without focusing on the gender problem revealed by the meeting in the Turkish capital. "I am very disappointed, especially by the shameful image of the EU in Ankara," lamented Garcia. Even so, the socialist leader has accepted Michel's apology: "As a European, yes, I also felt hurt."
In the Council, the majority of the delegations are also in favor of forgetting the incident and that Michel and Von der Leyen reach an understanding.
Council sources have tried to attribute the misunderstanding to the hierarchy of positions that, in relations with third countries, equates that of Michel with a head of state and that of Von der Leyen with that of a presidency of the Government.
But the president of the Commission has insisted: "I do not see any reason in the EU Treaty to be treated differently, so I attribute it to the fact that I am a woman."
Von der Leyen also does not seem convinced of Michel's other explanation, who has thus argued his lack of reaction to the rudeness of the president.
"I did not want to provoke a more serious political incident that would have jeopardized months of work [to improve tense relations with Turkey]."
Michel and Von der Leyen have only agreed that the episode offers the opportunity to reinforce the fight against sexual discrimination and legislation in favor of gender equality and the protection of women. As a sign of goodwill, the president of the Council has offered to try to unblock legislative projects such as the one that would impose equal pay in large companies.
Von der Leyen, for his part, has announced that before the end of the year he will present new legislation to combat violence against women and children. The president of the Commission has also described as unacceptable the appearance in Europe of the so-called LGTBQI free zones. "It seems incredible to me that in 2021 we still have to be talking about the fact that all people have the same rights, regardless of who they love or where they come from," concluded Von der Leyen, an intervention that received applause as warmly as a hemicycle practically empty due to the pandemic could offer.