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European Council president faces call to resign over ‘Sofagate’ incident

Ursula von der Leyen was left without a seat at the meeting - Credit: European Union

Women’s organisations are calling on the European Council president Charles Michel to resign over an incident that was dubbed “sofagate”. 

Michel has been criticised for failing to do more to ensure that European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen was seated beside him and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at last week’s meeting, when the government in Ankara failed to provide her with a seat.

Von der Leyen was left visibly shocked when she realised only Michel had a chair provided for the meeting.

Now a petition launched by the Millenia Foundation, an international organisation working for women’s empowerment and equality, has amassed more than 12,000 signatures on a petition calling for Michel to step down.

It pointed to “several serious mistakes that a pitiful apology cannot erase”, which they say “are an affront to all women.”

They say these mistakes run counter to diplomacy, the EU and human rights and, in particular, women’s rights.

Michel said he had suffered “sleepless nights” since the incident, but insisted asking for a chair for Von der Leyen could have been seen as patronising.

MORE: Italian prime minister brands Erdogan a ‘dictator’ after Ursula von der Leyen snub

“I haven’t been sleeping well since the sofa incident. The movie keeps running through my mind,” he told the media.

“I take my share of responsibility for the incident,” he said. “Ursula von der Leyen conveyed the message about women’s and human rights to the Turks. If I had stepped in to offer a chair, it might have come across as patronising.”