"I am the first woman to be president of the European Commission. I am the president of the European Commission, and this is how I expected to be treated when visiting Turkey two weeks ago, like a commission president. But I was not. I cannot find any justification for how I was treated in the meeting, so I have to conclude that it happened because I am a woman", von der Leyen told the European Parliament, adding that "I felt hurt and I felt alone, as a woman and as a European".
The senior EU official stressed that the issue was not about seating arrangements or protocol, but about the values that Europe stood for.
"This shows how far we still have to go before women are treated as equals, always and everywhere", von der Leyen noted.
On 6 April, von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel held a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. As there were only two chairs in the room, von der Leyen stood awkwardly while the rest were seated and then retreated to the sofa facing the top Turkish diplomat, who has a lower rank under the diplomatic protocol.