Criticism of the EU Commission when dealing with von der Leyen’s SMS

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The European Ombudsman has issued a sharp reprimand against Ursula von der Leyen’s EU Commission. © John Thys/Pool AFP/AP/dpa

It’s about a 35 billion deal in the procurement of corona vaccines. Did EU Commission President von der Leyen put him in place? The Commission has not yet provided any information on this.

Brussels – The European Ombudsman has sharply reprimanded the EU Commission of President Ursula von der Leyen for its non-transparent handling of SMS messages in connection with vaccine purchases worth billions.

She spoke of a maladministration and called for clarification. Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said on Friday in Brussels that the “expectations of the Commission’s transparency and administrative standards” had not been met.

The case is also piquant because the CDU politician’s handling of cell phone data has already been criticized. When she was Secretary of Defense, the data on one of her cell phones was erased. The Ministry of Defense justified the mobile phone deletion in 2019 with a “security incident”. Critics complained that evidence was lost in the consultant affair, which involved allegations of incorrect procurement and nepotism.

Personal contact to Pfizer boss

The current case is about a deal for up to 1.8 billion doses of corona vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer from spring 2021. The contract volume was estimated at 35 billion euros at the time. As the “New York Times” reported, the personal contact between von der Leyen and Pfizer boss Albert Bourla was crucial for the business. The journalist Alexander Fanta from then asked the EU Commission about the EU’s Freedom of Information Act. However, she rejected the request.

According to the ombudsman, the EU Commission replied to the journalist that the text messages had not been registered. However, the authority did not expressly ask von der Leyen’s cabinet to search for SMS – only for documents that meet the registration criteria. SMS are not included.

So it was not even tried to find out whether SMS existed, said O’Reilly. She stressed: “Not all text messages need to be registered, but they clearly fall under EU transparency law. Therefore, relevant text messages should be captured.” For the right of access to EU documents, the content is decisive – not the device or the form. “The EU administration must update its practice of document registration.” The EU Commission must ask von der Leyen’s cabinet to look for the SMS again. If they turned up, it should be checked whether they meet the criteria to be released. dpa

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