TORONTO - Leadership is defined by how individuals spontaneously respond to unanticipated stimuli. Intuitively, we recognize the astuteness, sagacity, “class” and courage inherent in the response. This is especially so when the individual cannot be held to account by a political obligation.
Last week, Mario Draghi, former governor of the Bank of Europe, selected by Italian Parliamentarians to serve as Prime Minister of the Italian Parliament showed what it means to stand for what is right, when he could simply have “minded his own business”.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel traveled to Ankara for talks on Turkey-EU relations with Turkish President Erdogan. The Commission is the executive branch of the European Union Europe’s 27 States.
The Council represents the “heads” of those States. Turkey is an emerging economic and military power pushing its influence westward into the Mediterranean. Among other things, it is looking to establish a footing in Libya. It is also applying for membership in the group of 27.
During a Tuesday meeting in Ankara, only two chairs were set out for the three leaders in front of the EU and Turkish flags. It could not have been an oversight. Ursula von der Leyen was left standing. The symbolism was stark: Erdogan has nothing but contempt for Europe’s Commission, much less if it is lead by a woman. It is unlikely that he will make a great partner.
Right now, he is merely a classless boor. When asked his opinion on the matter, at the end of a press conference on Covid-19, Draghi, who is not an elected Parliamentarian, simply responded that Erdogan’s actions are typical of despots and dictators.
The Turkish authorities “went ballistic”, as the saying goes. Ankara called in the Italian Ambassador for a “dressing down” and to demand an apology. The Turkish Ambassador in Rome went into a tizzy trying to encourage retractions and to normalize relations. The European Press debated whether Draghi, the consummate statesman had gotten himself into a snafu.
Erdogan continues to rail against Italy, Italians and Italian history. Women everywhere must be applauding the fact there still exists a man capable of embodying “chivalry”. Position and “noblesse” are more about how one treats people and discharges obligations than it is about huffing and puffing. One should pity Charles Michel. The former Belgian Prime Minister took the sole chair made available for fear of squandering the months of preparations and negotiations, he said. He just wimped out. He may have to repair many bridges with von der Leyen and her allies.
No friend is he of European interests. Nor is Erdogan. Turkey may have to wait until he mends his ways or it produces a different type of leader.
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