Ursula von der Leyen isn’t particularly keen on diplomatic protocol. Earlier this year, in a bid to get EU hands on British bound vaccines, the Commission announced its intention to implement a hard Northern Irish border — without bothering to tell either Dublin or Belfast. (Naturally, that fit of international irreverence was blamed on a Brussels subordinate).
Then we had sofagate, which overshadowed what should have been a show of European strength in the face of Turkish President Erdogan. VdL instead decided to take the opportunity to make a fuss about a chair being offered to a man — despite Council President Charles Michel’s superiority to her in the EU’s order of precedence.
Now the haughty Hanovarian has insulted the Ukrainians with her lack of diplomatic tact. In a letter leaked to the French media, VdL’s office curtly declines to attend Kiev’s independence day celebrations this summer, despite the fact Ukraine needs all the international friends it can get given Putin’s troops are stalking her borders.
In fact, VdL didn’t even bother penning a response to the Ukrainian President’s letter herself, instead delegating the task to her chief of staff. Diplomatic custom dictates that letters written by a head of state should be responded to by those of equal rank. According to French newspaper Le Figaro, EU diplomats have expressed embarrassment over her diplomatic faux pas. Now Brussels’ spinners are claiming the letter was never actually sent and that Charles Michel will, in fact, be representing the EU in Kiev — no doubt taking a seat reserved for von der Leyen…