‘Sofagate 2’ tops disappointing day for girls


When Ugandan international minister normal Jeje Odongo arrived on the EU Council constructing on Friday (18 February), he casually walked previous EU Fee president Ursula von der Leyen, shook arms with EU Council president Charles Michel and French president Emmanuel Macron, after which posed for a bunch photograph.

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Von der Leyen smiled awkwardly earlier than Macron, after an uncomfortable few seconds, steered Odongo again towards her.

  • Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Friday (Photograph: consilium.eu)

Odongo ultimately exchanged a number of phrases with von der Leyen, however nonetheless didn’t shake her hand.

However what left many observers open-mouthed was how Michel, a number of the occasion, who was standing nearest to von der Leyen, appeared unaware of the necessity to intervene — leaving that job to Macron.

The hashtag #sofagate rapidly started circulating on social media.

“Now with out [sofa emoji] however with a pointy French president,” Lykke Friis, Denmark’s former minister of gender equality, commented in her Twitter publish.

Sofagate is a reference to a earlier protocol fiasco involving von der Leyen and Michel that unfolded in April final 12 months in Ankara.

In that case, Turkish diplomats had snubbed von der Leyen by neglecting to present her a chair at a summit with the Turkish president, and, on that event too, gallantry appears to have eluded Michel, who did nothing in protest.

Michel’s defenders on Twitter laid the blame on Friday’s gaffe squarely at Odongo’s door, who couldn’t be reached to present his view.

An EU supply, who declined to be recognized, when requested if von der Leyen felt she acquired ample assist from Macron and Michel, stated: “I believe our president has extra essential issues to deal with.

And later Friday an advisor to Michel, Jurek Kuczkiewicz, stated the incident was not because it first appeared to many viewers.

The video “clearly exhibits” Michel was “speaking to President Macron whereas the visitor walks by” von der Leyen, Kuczkiewicz wrote on Twitter. The video additionally confirmed Michel “turning once more to President Macron asking what occurred.”

Even when the EU establishments wished to downplay the incident, it nonetheless appeared to underline a broader neglect of girls’s and LGBTI rights on the summit.

Friday’s joint communiqué, which is supposed to set the tone for European-African relations throughout the subsequent 5 years, known as “for gender equality and ladies’s empowerment in all spheres of life.”

However EU leaders had initially deliberate to additionally make a robust assertion on girls’s sexual and reproductive well being and rights (SRHR) — and that was absent.

“It could appear to be a fringe matter [at the summit], nevertheless it’s essential when it comes to what it says about EU values,” an EU diplomat talking on situation of anonymity instructed EUobserver. “What are we doing this summit for? Is it simply photograph alternatives?” the diplomat requested.

Absent phrases

In accordance with a draft of the communiqué being ready final month, EU leaders had deliberate to reaffirm “dedication to the promotion, safety and fulfilment of the suitable of each particular person to have full management over, and determine freely and responsibly on issues associated to their sexuality and sexual and reproductive well being, free from discrimination, coercion and violence.”

The reference to folks’s “sexuality” free from “discrimination, coercion and violence,” additionally usually helps the rights of LGBTI minorities.

“The EU additional stresses the necessity for common entry to high quality and reasonably priced complete sexual and reproductive well being data, schooling, together with complete sexuality schooling, and health-care providers,” they’d supposed to incorporate.

However by Thursday morning, simply forward of the beginning of the summit, the references had been eliminated.

Michel’s workplace declined to remark Friday as as to if the SRHR language was minimize to appease African Union (AU) calls for.

“The textual content is evident and strong on gender equality and ladies’s empowerment in all spheres of life,” an EU official stated.

Both means, the result marks a step again for SRHR by comparability with a earlier EU-AU summit in 2017, when a ultimate communiqué talked about the difficulty twice.

The EU diplomat stated EU member states supporting the language had sought a workaround, however dropped the thought.

“At one level, we considered doing an EU-only declaration [containing the SRHR pledge], however there was concern that the AU would then come out with an AU-only declaration as nicely, which might not be good for the picture of unity,” the diplomat stated.


Abortion is authorized in simply 4 African international locations, and as much as 17 % of maternal deaths in elements of sub-Saharan Africa are attributable to unlawful being pregnant terminations, in line with the WHO.

Homosexuality is formally unlawful in 31 out of 54 African international locations in addition to being de facto unlawful in Egypt, in line with ILGA-World, a Geneva-based marketing campaign group.

“By reducing references to SRHR, the declaration fails younger folks and undermines gender equality, and by reducing these to LGBTI freedoms, it consolidates the erosion of human rights,” Kasia Lemanska, from Dutch charity AidsFonds, which is making an attempt to struggle HIV in Africa, instructed EUobserver.

This text has been up to date to replicate remark by an advisor to Charles Michel.


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