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Commission President von der Leyen must lead by example on transparency and integrity in EU


17 Feb 2022



Recent findings from the European Ombudsman proved MEPs were right to be worried about the levels of transparency when it comes to the Commission’s handling of COVID-19 vaccines. A report on the activities of the Ombudsman in plenary this week, which started in the petitions committee, raises alarm bells about the purchasing and distribution of vaccines under the Commission’s emergency public procurement procedure in 2020. The debate on the activities of the Ombudsman took place on Monday evening and the vote takes place today (Tuesday).

Alex Agius Saliba, vice-president of the S&D Group and S&D negotiator on the activities of the Ombudsman, said:

“We are concerned about the serious lack of transparency from the Commission during the COVID-19 crisis and this report highlights the opaque procedures in place in 2020 on the buying and distributing of vaccines in the EU. The European Ombudsman’s recent findings over undisclosed private messages between the Commission President and the Pfizer CEO show our concerns are not misplaced. Von der Leyen must lead by example and come clean about her hidden text messages. This is the only way to live up to her promise that under her watch the Commission would be beyond reproach on ethics, transparency and integrity. The S&D Group is fighting to make sure the EU's response during the crisis gets the full scrutiny in the European Parliament that it needs. Citizens deserve much better and expect complete transparency from our institutions. This report underlines the crucial role the European Ombudsman plays in making the EU more accountable and Emily O’Reilly has our continued support in her commitment to full transparency. Disappointingly EPP MEPs voted against the report in the committee vote so clearly they do not share that same commitment.”

Note to editors

In January 2022, the Ombudsman criticised the Commission’s handling of a request for public access to text messages between its President and the CEO of Pfizer. The Ombudsman has requested a more extensive search for the relevant messages. The Ombudsman found the Commission’s narrow approach in answering a journalist’s request for access to the messages to amount to maladministration.


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