Thousands sign petition calling for Charles Michel’s resignation over Sofagate

A petition calling for Charles Michel’s resignation has garnered over 5,000 signatures as of Monday morning, arguing the president of the European Council hurt the bloc’s diplomacy as well as women’s rights during the Sofagate incident and his subsequent apology.

The petition, signed by leaders of women’s groups like the Millennia2025 Women and Innovation Foundation and the International Law League of Women, states Michel has made “several serious mistakes that a pitiful apology cannot erase”.

The petition also ties the incident with Ankara’s decision on March 19 to leave the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. “By ostensibly taking leadership as a man over a woman who is your political equal, you offer reinforcement to the dictator on the crush he wants to impose to women and girls of Turkey,” the letter reads.

Other first signatories include writers, a retired lawyer, and Belgian federal and regional MPs. The full list of signatories won’t be available until the petition closes at noon on Tuesday, after which it will be sent to Michel, with a copy also landing on von der Leyen’s desk.

The petition is the latest among the numerous and varied public responses to the awkward moment in Ankara on April 6, when the only two chairs in front of the Turkish and EU flags were quickly filled by Turkish President Erdoğan and Michel, leaving European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen standing before being directed to a nearby sofa. Michel first claimed he was not to blame for the episode, but later admitted he may have made a mistake.

Michel and von der Leyen will sit down this Monday afternoon for their weekly meeting — likely in chairs of similar size.

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