The European ombudsman has criticized the way the European Commission (EC) has responded to a request for access to text messages between the president of the institution, Ursula von der Leyen, and the CEO of a pharmaceutical company. Therefore, the European Ombudsman urges the EC to conduct a more comprehensive search of relevant messages.
The investigation came after Brussels-based journalist Alexander Fanta asked the portal www.netzpolitik.org for access to documents related to the contact between the EC president and the general manager of the pharmaceutical company.
The reason for this request was an interview of Ursula von der Layen for the New York Times in April 2021, where, among other things, she mentioned that she corresponded with the head of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Albert Burla, regarding the supply of vaccines against KOVID-19.
After the interview, the journalist requested public access to SMS messages and other documents related to the alleged exchange.
According to the European Ombudsman’s findings, the European Commission has identified three documents that fall within the scope of the request: e-mail, letter and press release, and all have been published.
In response to the journalist’s request for public access, the Commission, inter alia, stated that no records were kept of such messages related to the procurement of vaccines against KOVID-19.
The complainant addressed the Ombudsman, as the Commission did not identify the SMS messages.
The European Ombudsman is an institution that oversees the functioning of European institutions. A statement from the ombudsman said the body’s investigation had shown that the EC had not explicitly asked the president’s office to request text messages.
“Instead, her office was asked to look for documents that meet the internal criteria of the Recording Commission.” “SMS messages are currently considered to not meet these criteria,” the statement said.
According to the Ombudsman, this is a “bad administration”.
European ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said that the way the European Commission approached this issue, not enough was done to find out if there were any text messages.
“This is below the reasonable expectations for transparency and administrative standards in the Commission. Not all text messages should be recorded, but they are obviously part of the EU Transparency Law and therefore relevant text messages should be recorded. “It’s not credible to claim otherwise,” O’Reilly said.
The ombudsman asked the European Commission to ask Ursula von der Layen’s cabinet to reconsider the relevant text messages.
“If any SMS messages are identified, the Commission should then assess whether they meet the criteria for publication under EU access to documents,” the European ombudsman said in a statement.