EU Commission rebuked for not disclosing texts over Pfizer vaccine deal

Response to information request ‘amounted to maladministration’ says ombudsman

Francesco Guarascio
Friday 28 January 2022 15:16
Comments
<p>In an interview in April, von der Leyen revealed she had exchanged texts with Bourla for a month when they were negotiating a vaccine contract. </p>

In an interview in April, von der Leyen revealed she had exchanged texts with Bourla for a month when they were negotiating a vaccine contract.

The European Union ombudsman accused the European Commission of maladministration on Friday for not disclosing text messages that the head of the EU executive Ursula von der Leyen exchanged with Pfizer chief Albert Bourla to seal a COVID-19 vaccine deal.

In an interview in April, von der Leyen revealed she had exchanged texts with Bourla for a month when they were negotiating a vaccine contract. But in response to a public access request by a journalist, the Commission later said no record had been kept of such messages.

“The narrow way in which this public access request was treated meant that no attempt was made to identify if any text messages existed,” said ombudsman Emily O’Reilly.

“The ombudsman found that this amounted to maladministration,” it said in a statement, asking the Commission to check again for the relevant messages and to reply to the recommendation by April 26.

A spokesman for the Commission later on Friday declined to comment about whether the texts had been cancelled and whether they were exchanged with a private or a professional telephone.

He told journalists the EU executive would reply to the ombudsman by the deadline and noted EU rules required the Commission to register documents, with no specific requirement to store text messages as long as they were not treated as documents.

The ombudsman’s recommendations are not binding but usually trigger heightened scrutiny from the European Parliament.

“The European Commission has become less transparent, less accountable to the European Parliament and frankly more unhinged from European democracy,” said liberal European lawmaker Sophia In ‘t Veld, who is a member of the same grouping as French President Emmanuel Macron’s party.

The deal negotiated via text messages and calls, according to what von der Leyen herself said in her interview with the New York Times, was the biggest contract ever sealed for COVID-19 vaccines, with the EU committing to buy 900 million Pfizer-BioNTech shots, with an option to buy another 900 million.

When the deal was formally announced in May, the EU had already secured hundreds of millions of vaccines from several drugmakers, including another 600 million doses from Pfizer and BioNTech under two previous contracts with the two companies.

Reuters

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in