EU seating gaffe: European Council President Charles Michel ‘hasn’t slept well’ after seating arrangement incident

European Council President Charles Michel has said he is not sleeping well at night because he feels embarrassed about a seating arrangement incident at a meeting this week.

The incident happened when Mr Michel took the only chair available next to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Ankara.

When the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, came to be seated too, she became perplexed and raised a hand in disbelief.

She ended up being relegated to a sofa further away from her counterparts and opposite Turkey’s foreign minister, who is lower than her in the pecking order.

Talking about the incident with German newspaper Handelsblatt, Mr Michel said he would go back and fix the issue if he could.

“I make no secret of the fact that I haven’t slept well at night since because the scenes keep replaying in my head,” he said.

In an earlier interview with Belgian broadcaster LN24, he said the incident was a “disastrous incident” and added: “I deeply regret this situation.”

“I can tell you that I have rewound [the scene] in my head… I would like so much to rewind, to go back. If I could do it, I would make sure that there is no ambiguity whatsoever,” he said.

The awkward scene was just before a three-hour meeting with Mr Erdogan, where one of the topics of discussion was women’s rights following Turkey’s withdrawal from a convention on gender-based violence.

In a news conference after the meeting, neither Ms Von der Leyer nor Mr Michel mentioned the incident.

An EU spokesperson said the president should have been seated in exactly the same manner as the president of the council and the Turkish president but decided to “proceed by prioritising substance over protocol”.

“We will be making the appropriate contacts to ensure this doesn’t happen again in future,” they added.

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