The head of the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Albert Bourla, pictured on February 26, 2019.
Brussels – The American newspaper The New York Times (NYT) appealed to the highest court of the European Union in an attempt to obtain text messages that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sent to the head of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer Albert Bourla. The lawsuit was filed on January 25, but details have not yet been provided by the Court of Justice of the EU, Politico has learned.
The revelation of the communication between von der Leyen and Bourla could shed light on the background of the purchases of vaccines against covid-19, of which the EU ordered hundreds of millions from the company in question. SMS messages have been talked about for a long time in connection with the giant contract from May 2021, the conclusion of which was a response to problems with another supplier – AstraZeneca. The purchase was personally negotiated by the chair of the European Commission, but according to Politico, the EU executive remains silent about her communication with Bourla.
The NYT wants to convince the court that the commission has a legal obligation to publish the reports, writes Politico, which was told the details by two unnamed sources familiar with the matter. with the case. The American newspaper refused to comment on the matter in more detail, and the EC reportedly did not respond to a request for comment.
It was the NYT that drew attention to the communication between von der Leyen and Bourla when, just before the signing of the contract for the supply of up to 1.8 billion doses of the vaccine, it published a report describing the negotiations. The pair had been calling and messaging each other for about a month, she said, with that “personal diplomacy playing a big role in the deal”.
But the content of the messages and phone calls is not known, as well as the financial side of the contract. The subject is also addressed by the reporter of the Austrian website netzpolitik.org, Alexander Fanta, to whom the commission replied that no such materials exist in response to a request for text messages. The journalist then turned to the EU ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, who stated that the EC did not proceed correctly in the matter, as it did not explicitly ask the president's office to trace the text messages.
Not even the European Court of Auditors (ECA) got access to them. , who announced after last year's audit of the purchase of covid vaccines that the commission did not even explain why it was not providing the requested information about the negotiations. According to Politico, European Commissioner Věra Jourová previously indicated that the messages could have been removed.
“This is a big, big deal. It could be the biggest transparency dispute in the EU in the last decade,” Fanta responded to news of the lawsuit RIVET. According to him, EU law gives EU citizens the opportunity to view any official documents “regardless of the medium”. “The laws actually speak clearly: It's about any documents the EU has, not just those it chooses to archive. The Commission is trying to go against legal gravity,” wrote Fanta.