March 5. 2024. 12:54

The Daily

Read the World Today

New York Times takes EU Commission to court over ‘Pfizergate’ affair

The New York Times is suing the European Commission for failing to make public the text messages exchanged between Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen became embroiled in a scandal after her office was reluctant to make public the SMS texts von der Leyen exchanged with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla over the purchase of 1.8 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses.

When journalist Alexander Fanta of the news website requested access to these messages, the Commission replied that it had not “identified” them and could no longer find them.

The Commission’s statements led the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly to file a complaint in January 2022, urging the EU executive to “conduct a more thorough search for relevant messages”.

In response, EU Transparency Commissioner Věra Jourová said the search for text messages between von der Leyen and Bourla “did not yield any results”.

In July 2022, the EU’s Ombudsman severely criticised the Commission and considered the lack of willingness to trace these SMS messages to be a “wake-up call”.

“The handling of this access to documents request leaves the regrettable impression of an EU institution that is not forthcoming on matters of significant public interest,” O’Reilly added at the time.

But for Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, “nobody can negotiate the complexity of these contracts, by SMS or alone. This was a very well-structured procedure between the member states and the Commission,” he said on 26 October.

Pfizer officials could be excluded from the European Parliament

The European Parliament’s COVI committee on Thursday (11 January) approved a proposal to ban Pfizer officials from the European Parliament, following the company’s lack of transparency in vaccine purchase contracts during the pandemic.