Turkey: Erdogan is ‘walking on European territory’ says MEP
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was taken aback to find her fellow top EU official taking the only chair available next to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan when the duo visited Ankara, and her spokesman made that clear on Wednesday. The move by the Turkish leader sparked the outrage of Italian League MEPs in Brussels now calling on the EU Commission chief to take action against Ankara.
In a joint note by MEPs Marco Zanni, Marco Campomenosi, Anna Cinzia Bonfrisco and Susanna Ceccardi, the Commission was also urged to clarify whether the recent arrest of 10 former Navy admirals by President Erdogan were among the things discussed in Ankara on Tuesday.
They said: “The entire international community is indignant at Erdogan’s institutional rudeness to Ursula Von der Leyen, but the EU for too long has turned its gaze elsewhere and pretended not to see while Turkey committed even more serious acts on the human rights front and the rule of law: it is time for Brussels to pull the plug from negotiations and negotiations with the dictator.
“In recent days, the Ankara government has committed yet another strong action, arresting 10 former Navy admirals who had highlighted the dangers of a possible Turkish exit from the Montreux Convention and launched an appeal for Turkey to remain a secular and democratic country based on the rule of law.
EU news: Ursula von der Leyen was ‘humiliated’ by Erdogan, say MEPs (Image: GETTY)
EU news: Von der Leyen was not given a chair by President Erdogan (Image: GETTY)
“The authoritarian and undemocratic methods used for the repression of opposition political forces and civil organisations and the repeated violations of human rights are unacceptable: we have submitted a question to the European Commission to clarify whether the episode was discussed during the meeting of Aril 6, in addition to issues of human rights and the rule of law.
“But above all to find out on the basis of which elements and conditions the EU deems it appropriate to open towards a country that has proved itself anti-European in fact and far from European values.
“How long will Brussels want to be blackmailed and humiliated by Ankara?”
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Footage from their meeting on Tuesday showed the first female head of the EU executive, the only woman in the talks, gesturing in disbelief and uttering a surprised sigh as Erdogan and European Council President Charles Michel took the two centre-stage seats prepared, relegating her to an adjacent sofa.
EU executive arm’s spokesman, Eric Mamer said: “The president of the Commission was clearly surprised.
“The president (von der Leyen) should have been seated in exactly the same manner as the president of the European Council and the Turkish president.”
The Turkish government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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EU news: The Turkish President received Charles Michel and Von der Leyen on Tuesday (Image: GETTY)
However, a member of the European Parliament, Sophie in ‘t Veld, asked why Mr Michel had not reacted.
While the Commission conveyed Ms von der Leyen’s irritation, an EU official who declined to be named said that to do so might have provoked a “protocol and political incident, both towards Turkey and the European Council”.
The official added: “Turkey meant no disrespect.
“It extended a very courteous welcome to both presidents and strictly adhered to international protocol.”
In the past, three chairs were provided when the Turkish leader visited Brussels for talks with the heads of the Commission and the European Council, which collectively represents the bloc’s 27 member states.
Mr Mamer said Ms von der Leyen decided not to make “an issue out of it” and in the conversation brought up women’s rights and the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, from which Turkey withdrew last month.
Ties between Brussels and Ankara have been strained since a coup attempt in 2016 prompted a crackdown on civil rights in Turkey, but they are now testing a cautious rapprochement.