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It was a pity that Charles Michel missed the opportunity to offer his seat to her for at least part of the meeting, especially when matters under the primary purview of the Commission were being discussed.

Michel showed, at a minimum, a serious lack of judgement. According to Brussels bubble journalists, this two-tiered seating was indeed mostly a casualty of the Michel-VDL rivalry: the EU Delegation in Turkey was supposed to be the main point of contact to arrange the meeting, but the Council (Michel's team) "sent an advanced team including a Protocol officer who established a direct contact with the Turkish Protocol thus complicating effective communication and coordination with the Turkish side."

Then, Michel didn't realized the exceedingly bad optics of seating alone with Erdogan while forcing his rival to a remote sofa, until it was way too late.

The Turkish side, who is blaming the EU protocol rules for the blunder, is not entirely blameless: Erdogan had already been seated with both the EUCO and the EC presidents, and there were three chairs; of course, both presidents were male at the time. The Erdogan team, who apparently are trying to appease the EU-Turkey relations rather than pulling a deliberate humiliation, didn't see the bad optics either - neither the bad optics of pulling out of the Istanbul Convention a few days ago. They may be furious at what they surely perceive as unfounded accusations, but they failed as much as Michel to see a problem with the seating arrangement.

Still, the main issue is, as you pointed out, is the rather weak and too often ineffective EU Executive. Unfortunately, this is by design: the head of states & governments in the Council have always wanted to have primacy over a possibly too active Commission (and over the EP, goes without saying). For the Council members, Michel, a former Belgian PM, is "one of us", and he is always insisting on his primacy, protocol or otherwise, over the EC President, until of course he overplayed his hand in Ankara. VDL herself was nominated to the EC after a not so glorious political career in Germany and has willingly played second fiddle to the EUCO.

Eventual change is not going to come from inside the EU institutions: only the EU governments can change, and eventually reinforce, the EU institutions. With the rise of nationalists, if not outright fascist, parties all over the continent, and the msinstream right parties jealous of their national prerogatives, it doesn't look like change is going to happen anytime soon.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Apr 11th, 2021 at 12:39:02 PM EST
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Great comment. Will there be consequences for Michel for embarrassing the EU, or will all of this be brushed under the carpet? How will Merkel feel about her former protege being humiliated?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Apr 11th, 2021 at 02:01:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hard to say: I expect that many heads of state/government in the EU27, starting with Merkel & Macron, but also the Greek and Cypriot PM's, are none too happy; this after the Borrel humiliation in Moscow two months ago.

I don't know whether the EUCO can remove Michel, but we can expect they will want to keep him on a shorter leash, especially Merkel, who's been VDL's sponsor.

In any case, for all the talks of "geopolitical commission" or whatnot, the EU is still a trade giant and a political dwarf (and it still doesn't have a unique "phone number"). This is by design from the member states, but it is clearly not up to the task when engaging with "difficult" neighbors like Russia or Turkey. Will this prompt more changes in the way the 27 organize their common diplomacy? I don't expect radical changes any time soon, and certainly not before the German and French elections.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Apr 11th, 2021 at 05:21:42 PM EST
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The EU is misnamed. They should have called it 'The European Confederation'. That would be more accurate and might let more people have realistic views of what it can and cannot do. The thing about the EU that is most union like would be the EMU, but that is a poor recommendation.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 11th, 2021 at 06:59:10 PM EST
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It's difficult to generalise across so many countries and political views but I don't get the sense in Ireland that people have wildly unrealistic expectations of what the EU can and can't do. It was the Brexiteers that wildly inflated its powers and all pervasive influence, to bolster their own case that it was an undemocratic dictatorship.

Here, people tend to look at their own government with some destain and distrust and are glad the EU has some powers to mitigate it's worst excesses. They would be aware of the ECB's role in ensuring the availability of cheap money for borrowing, and of the EU role in attempting to keep economies afloat with some structural spending.

The EU is seen mostly as a sensible attempt by 27 countries to cooperate and coordinate their responses to global problems too big for any one country to fix by itself. People are proud that Ireland, as a small country, has a seat at the table with some much bigger countries.

They are happy that it helped sustain Irish agriculture and develop the Irish economy by making it attractive for MNCs to locate here to access the single market. They value the EU's contribution to the peace process and ensuring Brexit wasn't allowed to jeopardize it completely.

The snafu over article 16 and the failures in vaccine procurement would be seen as the main mistakes but there is a recognition there were a lot of factors involved and perhaps an openness to greater cooperation and coordination in the future. I don't get the sense of a huge alienation from the EU as you got with Brexiteers and amongst many in the US towards the Federal government.

So overall, its not too bad a place to be in, even ifit can be infuriatingly slow to get a consensus on any issue.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Apr 11th, 2021 at 10:10:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Women's groups launch petition calling for Charles Michel to resign  - Brussels Time
European women's associations have written to the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, asking him to step down following "Sofagate," the label given to an incident on Tuesday in which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was subjected to a protocol snub in Ankara.

A petition launched by the associations obtained over 2,500 signatures in less than two days in Belgium, France, Italy and even outside the European Union.

The petition was started by the Millenia Foundation, an international public utility foundation for women's empowerment and equality, following Tuesday's incident, in which Michel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sat in the only two armchairs provided when the Turkish leader received his EU visitors, leaving the Commission President standing.

by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Apr 12th, 2021 at 02:27:39 PM EST
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