The European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, wants to have more information about the text messages exchanged between the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the director of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.
Last April, the New York Times revealed that von der Leyen had sent and received messages from the company’s CEO, Albert Bourla. However, when a request was sent to have access to the messages, the European Commission argued that being of “short duration” by precept were excluded from the registry, so he had no report of them.
This refusal by the Commission to allow access to these messages led to a complaint to the European Ombudsman, who is now trying to tackle this problem. The complainant, whose identity has not been disclosed, maintains that the Commission has the obligation to record instant messages related to important politics or political issues, such as the acquisition of vaccines against covid-19.
For the time being, the institution has opened an investigation and has tried to meet with representatives of the Commission to discuss applicable procedures and practice.
Following a complaint, we have opened an inquiry into @EU_Commission‘s refusal to grant access to text messages between @vonderleyen and a multinational’s CEO about a #COVID19 vaccine contract.📌 https://t.co/88u7AN7wZZ[1/2] pic.twitter.com/jphrMjFdnA
— European Ombudsman (@EUombudsman) September 17, 2021
The office of the European Ombudsman maintains that as a first step they have requested to the Commission explain your policy on text message record keeping and how it is implemented, and how and where you searched for the relevant text messages that you were requested and denied possessing.
The release of the institution led by O’Reilly comes at a time when a debate is taking place within several EU member countries about the existence or not of responsibility in the use of text messages by senior officials when finish your workday.
Initiative for the transparency of community institutions
At the end of June, O’Reilly already sent a paper to the European Commission for information on how the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies record text messages and instant messages sent and received by staff members as part of their professional activity.
The Ombudsman mentioned that the EU administration “uses more and more modern electronic media in his daily work, “I use that the Covid-19 crisis and the establishment of teleworking” have increased even more.
In this context, he recalled that “EU law requires the EU administration to prepare and maintain documentation relative to their activities, to the extent possible and in a non-arbitrary and predictable manner “and that such record”should not depend on the medium, be it a letter, an email, a text message or an instant message, but its content. “
Thus, O’Reilly recalled that this record of information serves several purposes: to facilitate its exchange, evidence the actions carried out, comply with the legal obligations of the institutions and preserve their memory, in addition to being a precondition to comply with the obligations of transparency.