The European Commission claims it can’t and won’t find text messages between its President Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla sent during the peak of the COVID pandemic.
The New York Times in 2021 first reported that von der Leyen had exchanged “texts and calls” with Bourla, and that “personal diplomacy played a big role” in forging a massive contract for 1.8 billion mRNA vaccine doses for the EU.
The commission later refused to disclose the text messages to journalists, prompting the bloc’s top watchdog, the European Ombudsman, to accuse the commission of “maladministration” earlier this year.
The ordeal, now known as “Deletegate,” has culminated in a rebuke from the EU Commission, who claimed Wednesday the text messages between von der Leyen and Bourla are not relevant to the vaccine deal, the price of which is still not known.
“The commission can confirm that the search undertaken by the president’s cabinet [top officials] for relevant text messages corresponding to the request for access to documents has not yielded any results,” says the commission’s vice-president for values, Vĕra Jourová.
“Due to their short-lived and ephemeral nature, text and instant messages in general do not contain important information relating to policies, activities and decisions of the commission,” she added.
But Bourla told The New York Times in 2021 that he and von der Leyen had “developed a deep trust, because we got into deep discussions” about the COVID vaccine.
“She knew details about the variants, she knew details about everything. So that made the discussion way more engaged,” he said.
If there’s nothing important in those text messages, why not simply release them anyway to dispel claims of corruption by the EU watchdog?
Pfizer’s revenue doubled in 2021 to $81.3 billion amid record sales of its mRNA vaccine to various governments.
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