The situation around the shady deals by Ursula von der Leyen and Albert Burla to supply Pfizer vaccines to the European Union continues, and a detailed explanation of how and why so many billions of taxpayers' money were spent to obtain them is being demanded from the Commission president.
Politico reports that European Commission lawmakers are trying to shed light on the vaccine procurement case and exactly what happened at the peak of the pandemic in 2021. The European Parliament's ad hoc committee on Covid-19 called on von der Leyen to join the panel of moderators and answer their questions.
The committee's chairwoman, Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt, said she wanted full transparency on the negotiations that led to the vaccine purchase. According to the Politico report, this is a reference to the Commission chair's personal role in negotiating the largest vaccine contract awarded to Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. His appearance could divert attention to the controversial unknown messages von der Leyen exchanged with Pfizer CEO Albert Burla.
As Politico reports, at first glance, von der Leyen could have simply said "no" and not gone to the committee. European Parliament committees do not have much formal power. They have no power to force witnesses to appear or persuade them to tell the truth - and there are no consequences if someone refuses to appear or simply lies in front of a committee.
Indeed, Pfizer CEO Albert Burla, with whom von der Leyen allegedly negotiated on a personal level via text messages, sent one of his employees instead of going himself.
Indeed, the Commission president herself has already demonstrated a tendency to evade in negotiations with Pfizer, which prompted a verdict of the European Ombudsman on the Commission's maladministration due to a lack of transparency. However, the fact that von der Leyen plays an institutional role gives the Parliament more leverage than in the case of other non-Commissioners, which may help tip the balance in favor of the Commission.
Although the Commission president usually addresses all MEPs in plenary, such as during the annual State of the Union address, in the past Commission presidents have addressed committees.
The European Parliament is responsible for overseeing the EU budget.
Since billions of euros have been spent on the joint purchase of vaccines, and some of these funds have come directly from EU pockets, it is hard to argue that important financial considerations do not apply here, which elected EU representatives should be able to control.
Moreover, there is Article 13 of the EU's founding treaty, which requires mutual sincere cooperation between the EU institutions. This point is reiterated in the inter-institutional agreement between Parliament and the Commission, which states that the EU executive must also provide legislators with confidential information upon request - such as the content of certain text messages, for example.