Charles Michel apologizes to Ursula von der Leyen and asks to turn the page | International

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The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, in the European Parliament on Tuesday.Francisco Seco / POOL / EFE

A week after the humiliation of the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in Turkey, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, apologized on Tuesday to the German and regretted that his attitude in Ankara could have offended the women. In a meeting with the groups of the European Parliament, the head of the Council asked to turn the page and maintain institutional unity, according to community sources. The President of the Commission appreciated the support received by the European Parliament.

It has been a week since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Charles Michel sat in their armchairs and relegated Von der Leyen to the sofa. And several sources consulted agree that the relationship between the two is manifestly tense. This Tuesday the two leaders had to go to give the first explanations to the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament, in which the president of the Chamber, David Sassoli, and the heads of ranks of the parliamentary groups are present. All, according to parliamentary sources, agreed to criticize this situation, which in their opinion damaged the image of the community institutions. The left-wing parties also emphasized the discrimination against women that this scene had entailed.

According to parliamentary sources, Michel admitted the mistake and apologized to Von der Leyen and the women, if they were offended by his attitude. The European Parliament had criticized him, precisely, that instead of standing before Erdogan he decided to sit down and limit himself to looking at Von der Leyen while he complained about not having an armchair at the same level. The leader of the Social Democrats, Iratxe García, took the opportunity to say that she did accept the apology, since she had been offended by that attitude. Michel affirmed that he had not been aware of it, which García considers to be the fundamental problem: that many men are still not aware of these situations of inequality.

On video, the moment that caused the conflict.

Michel, according to the sources consulted, made the same story as in recent weeks. He explained that the services of the Council were in charge of the protocol because those of the Commission could not because of the covid-19. And he reiterated that they could not access the room where the meeting was to take place. Von der Leyen, for his part, thanked MEPs for the support received, as well as the unanimous feeling that this cannot happen again, which he was in charge of transferring Michel during Monday's meeting, which was the first they maintained after last week's rudeness.

Social Democrats call for a concrete plan

The parliamentary groups agreed that a blunder like that cannot happen again, since it undermines the prestige and the external action of the EU. Iratxe García demanded, in fact, that both leaders attend the plenary session at the end of April with their homework done. “It is not just another anecdote. I have asked both of them to present a proposal in two weeks on how to prevent and clarify protocol conflicts that blow up the prestige of the EU abroad, ”he said. Despite the criticism leveled at him, parliamentary sources argued that no group came to ask for Michel's resignation.

The two leaders explained the content of their trip to Ankara, with which they sought to offer Erdogan a positive agenda – economic and customs improvements – in exchange for the harassment of Greece and Cyprus to cease. Another point they had to address was the announcement by the Turkish president to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty against sexist violence. The leader of the Renew Liberals, Dacian Ciolos, said he called on both leaders to put pressure on Erdogan to back down.

According to community sources, Michel also insisted during his appearance before the presidents of the groups on "the unity of the EU" and on "team spirit", and ended by expressing his conviction that now it is necessary to "turn the page and focus on the Challenges and Challenges ”that the EU faces.

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