Joep Roet Profile picture
7 Apr, 12 tweets, 6 min read
I'm surprised and frankly amazed at how Brussels journalists drum up a story. #SofaGate. Can we take a moment to appreciate how Von der Leyen defused a potential diplomatic incident by adhering to protocol, rather than chastising Charles Michel? 1/
For who's out of the loop, journalists are amazed that Michel gets a seat instead of Von der Leyen. 2/
Let's focus on the facts here. There are 2 chairs and 2 sofas, so two people get to sit on a chair. Obviously the 2nd chair should go to Michel not VDL. EU protocol on external representation is quite clear. President of EU Council ranks above President of Comimssion 👉 3/
Have a look at the Council handbook for the presidencies and you'll see the protocol quite clearly. 4/
This protocolar order makes sense. The treaties define three faces of EU external representation: the EU Council president, the Commission, and the High Representative. Note how the treaties refer to "the Commission", not the president or a specific member of the Commission. 5/ The President of the EU Council has an explicit task and is The Commission does not name a specific person, e.g. the PreThe High Representative is tasked with conducting policy and
This Vademecum makes it quite clear who does what. 6/…
Conclusion: both Michel and Von der Leyen should have been at the meeting, each wearing their own hats, but the protocolar order is quite different. 7/
Now for those people who point out that Juncker did get a seat alongside Erdoğan and Tusk ... First of all, thanks for pointing out the anomaly. 8/
2nd it's hard to judge without knowing the context. It is quite clear from the photos that there were three chairs there, not two. So the 'issue' likely did not even come up. And if it had, Juncker should have sat on the sofa. Was a third chair available for VDL? We don't know.9/
3rd does it matter that Von der Leyen sits on a sofa opposite the Turkish foreign minister? Strictly speaking, the second-highest-ranking figures on each side are sitting on the sofa. It is not the butler who's sitting down next to Erdoğan ... 10/
Finally what would @vonderleyen and @eucopresident have gained from asking for a third chair? A kerfuffle disrupting what was otherwise a necessary and productive meeting. Instead, VDL recognised - in a split second - what the situation was and acted accordingly. 11/END
Excellent take to ask Juncker: “Normally I had a chair next to the chair of the president of the Council, but sometimes it happened that I was sitting on a sofa.”…

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