Ursula von der Leyen is getting further and further in the narrow by ‘sms-gate’. The European Ombudsman is demanding that her messages to Pfizer boss Albert Bourla be made public.
The existence of chat traffic between the president of the European Commission and the CEO of the pharmaceutical company came to light last May by an article in the New York Times. According to the newspaper, the two had contact for a month via text messages and phone calls and’personal diplomacy played a major role ’in a new purchase deal of 1.8 billion doses of the corona vaccine.
A reporter later requested the sms traffic via a WOB request, but got zero on the request in Brussels. The European Commission claimed to have only an email, letter and a press release on the subject. An investigation by the European Ombudsman now shows that Ursula von der Leyen’s team has not even bothered to search for text messages. The committee does not see sms traffic as a ’document’ that you can request.
Ombudsman Emily O’reilly thinks differently: “if text messages relate to EU policies and decisions, they should be treated as EU documents.”By keeping sms traffic under wraps, Von der Leyen is guilty of’maladministration’, according to Ombudsman Emily O’reilly. Her court must now look again for the messages.
Moreover, the watchdog believes that Brussels cannot hide behind the word ’document’. O’Reilly: “the EU must grow with the times we live in and the modern methods we use to communicate.”
The ombudsman has deployed the heaviest weapon against Von der Leyen: a recommendation. The European Commission, itself acting as a watchdog of regulations towards member states, must now again search for chat traffic.
Brussels turns necessity into a virtue and uses the procedure (they have three months to respond) as an excuse not to have to respond to critical questions about the affair. Von der Leyen’s spokesman reiterates that according to the rules, only documents must be registered. Whether the highly paid top woman erases her text messages, he does not want to say. First, the Ombudsman gets a response.
It is not the first time that German top politicians have been in trouble due to a lack of transparency. In her time as Minister of Defense in Germany, she was under fire for debatable tenders. She was eventually acquitted of misconduct, but also in this file there was a role for deleted text messages.
D66-MEP Sophie in ‘ t Veld demands that Von der Leyen give a text and explanation in the European Parliament.