This logo features an elegant monogram combining the letters "MK" in a stylish and elegant way, accompanied by the full name "Manners with Kristina" written in a complementary font.

3 Presidents 2 Chairs

Nothing is more important in the life of a protocol officer than the order of precedence. There is a rank and an order of precedence everywhere. Whether you’re meeting a state official, member of the Royal household, your colleague, or a friend. In this post, I’ll use an example of a diplomatic faux pas involving 3 presidents and 2 chairs, to demonstrate the importance of precedence. On top of that, I’ll teach you to think about precedence as an art. If you’re interested to learn more about the role of a protocol officer, check out my courses or get in touch.

Table of Contents

Nothing is more important in the life of a protocol officer than the order of precedence. There is a rank and an order of precedence everywhere. Whether you’re meeting a state official, member of the Royal household, your colleague, or a friend. In this post, I’ll use an example of a diplomatic faux pas involving 3 presidents and 2 chairs, to demonstrate the importance of precedence. On top of that, I’ll teach you to think about precedence as an art. If you’re interested to learn more about the role of a protocol officer, check out my courses or get in touch.

Many of you may have seen the headlines from all over the world about the diplomatic faux pas where European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was put into an awkward situation. In a meeting with Turkish President Erdogan and EU Council President Charles Michel, only two chairs were provided. President von der Leyen was seated on a sofa a little further away from her counterparts and opposite the Turkish foreign minister.

 

For a bit of background, the EU side stated that the protocol level of both of their representatives is exactly the same. Therefore, President von der Leyen should have been seated in exactly the same manner as both gentlemen. Turkey’s side insisted that the EU’s protocol requests were applied and so the shaming and blame game began.

Let’s shed some light on this:

For all official meetings, luncheons or dinners, the protocol officers determine the seating arrangements and prepare a seating plan. This usually includes coordination with the guest country or institution. To determine the seating position, the order of precedence is the protocol officer’s best friend and first consideration. As stated on the official EU website, the order of precedence among dignitaries of the EU institutions is as follows:

1. The president of the European Parliament

2. The President of the European Council (Mr Charles Michel)

3. Members of the European Council, including the President of the European Commission (Ms Ursula von der Leyen)

 

This brings me to the conclusion that President von der Leyen is lower in the order of precedence than her male counterpart. However (and this is very important) the final determination when arranging a meeting should be made on the basis of experience, judgement and common sense.

That is why I like to think of the order of precedence as an art. The art of precedence is a far more intangible and subtle skill. Sometimes a protocol officer needs to make determinations on a combination of intricate factors, rather than a simple decision on one. In this case, both EU representatives are the highest EU officials. This is where common sense and personal judgement comes into place. Just to get a better understanding, imagine you are the president of your country and you’re having a president and a prime minister of another country coming to visit. Would you exclusively talk to the president, because he is in the exact same position as you? I’m sure you would treat both of them with the same respect. President von der Leyen was therefore supposed to be seated on the same chair as both gentlemen, to the left of the Turkish President Erdogan.

 

To sum it up, the order of precedence and judgement should be the major determinants of an effective seating arrangement. I am not going to speculate on whether this was a genuine mistake or an intended discourtesy. My goal is to point out the correct protocol that shows the proper respect and recognition.

 

If you want more tips on the role and responsibilities of a protocol officer, check out my classes. For more personalised help, I’m also available for 1-on-1 sessions.

Share this post:
Facebook
X
Pinterest
LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular
Social Media
Subscribe

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for the latest news, updates, and expert tips. Choose the category that interests you the most and become a better version of yourself today!