‘No credibility left’ Von der Leyen has nobody to blame but herself for Sofagate, says MEP

Charles Michel appears to take Von der Leyen's chair

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Nicolas Bay was speaking in the wake of the European Commission President’s ill-fated visit to Ankara, during which she was forced to sit on a nearby sofa while Mr Erdogan and Charles Michel, President of the European Council, took the only two allocated chairs. Mr Michel has faced considerable criticism as a result of the diplomatic mishap, with many suggesting he should have refused to sit down.

However, Nicolas Bay, who is aslso General Secretary of the right-wing National Rally party, disagreed – for the most part, at least.

He told Express.co.uk: “Outside the EU the President of the Council has protocol precedence over the President of the Commission and it is not abnormal that they are not put on the same rank.

“This is natural since Charles Michel represents the Council which brings together the heads of state and government of the EU.

“Mrs von der Leyen only represents an obese administration, she leads civil servants and is one herself.

“There is no question of sexism in this, this controversy is ridiculous.”

Mr Bay said: “From a purely protocol point of view, Charles Michel has nothing to reproach himself for.

“From the point of view of good manners, he has shown a bit of boorishness.

“But from a symbolic and political point of view, it is absolutely shameful to make a big deal of this story as Ursula von der Leyen does – with an obvious desire to contravene the treaties and to strengthen the role of the Commission vis-a-vis the Council – and it is equally shameful for Charles Michel to beat his chest as if he had committed a serious fault.”

Mr Bay added: “If Mrs von der Leyen – who, as we now know, had not sent anyone to inquire about the protocol put in place and therefore has no legitimacy to complain about it afterwards – and Mr Michel had truly felt insulted by the configuration put in place, they had only to leave the room.

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“They did not do so, they remained under Erdogan’s authority and are now crying in front of the cameras as if they had suffered a slap in the face.”

Mr Bay stressed his belief that the true humiliation lay in the decision to visit in the first place “to beg for Erdogan’s clemency, to seek dialogue at all costs with a Turkey that insults us, threatens us and attacks us all the time!”

He said: “Mrs von der Leyen and Mr Michel, who systematically refuse to sanction Ankara, rushed there belly down at the first sign of appeasement, hoping to soften Mr. Erdogan by promising him more and more concessions, for example on the customs union.

“It is this continued cowardice, in the interests of the nations of Europe, that should justify the resignation of both of them.”

I fear that Mrs von der Leyen does not have much credibility to maintain

Nicolas Bay

Asked whether Mrs Von der Leyen’s credibility had been compromised as a result of the incident, Mr Bay said: “I fear that Mrs von der Leyen does not have much credibility to maintain.

“Blinded by her dogmas of free trade and multilateralism, Brussels submits to the slightest pressure.”

He also cited the recent visit of Josep Borrell, who as EU High Representative is the bloc’s top diplomat, to Moscow, which saw him endure a similarly awkward encounter, standing by as Russia’s defence minister Sergei Lavrov described the bloc as an “unreliable partner”.

Mr Bay commented: “Only with Russia can the Commission show its teeth, and it is only to reap further humiliation.

“I would remind you, by the way, that while we had very important agricultural markets in Russia.

“It became self-sufficient following the 2014 European sanctions. Another brilliant success story.

“To tell the truth, I don’t see any diplomatic successes from Brussels.

“But that’s normal: the EU is not a nation. It has no business being diplomatic. Let it leave that to the member states, for the good of all.”

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