Letter published by Irish Independent (second letter down)
EU must decide if it wants to be taken seriously
It is peculiarly appropriate that Ursula von der Leyen should have been denied a seat beside European Council president Charles Michel and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at their meeting in Ankara, as precedent and protocol requires.
Turkey had just announced it was withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, and what better way to underscore that than to snub the first female president of the Commission.
It was a pity that Charles Michel missed the opportunity to offer his seat to her for at least part of the meeting, especially when matters under the primary purview of the Commission were being discussed.
Women's equality does not require that all male chivalry must go out the window and it would have underlined her equal status within the EU.
The incident is the latest in a series of occasions where foreign leaders have felt emboldened to disrespect the EU and its leaders. Another took place during the visit by Josep Borrell, the Commission's foreign affairs chief, to Moscow in February. That was described by MEPs as a deliberate humiliation by Russia when several EU diplomats were expelled and the Russian foreign minister called the EU an "unreliable partner".
The UK has also refused to offer full diplomatic recognition to the EU's ambassador in London.
Perhaps if the EU was more robust in its defence of the rights of its own citizens it would garner more respect and appreciation abroad.
Exporting more vaccines to non-EU countries far more advanced in their vaccination programmes than the EU speaks of an organisation which cannot be relied upon to protect the human rights of its own.
Why then should Recep Tayyip Erdogan be concerned at some mild expressions of disapproval by the EU?
If the EU wants to be taken seriously in an increasingly chauvinistic and nationalistic world, it has to be prepared to match fine words with more robust actions, and if necessary, to kick over the odd chair or two to make its point.