NYT brings EU to court over von der Leyen’s Pfizer texts

Ursula von der Leyen pays respect to Queen Elizabeth II

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The New York Times brought the lawsuit to the EU following the failure to release President Ursula von der Leyen’s texts with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. This comes after Alexander Fanta, a journalist for netzpolitik.org, requested access to the texts but was refused.

The case will come to head in the bloc’s highest court as the newspaper argues the European Commission has a legal obligation to share the texts.

It is believed the messages could contain information on the bloc’s deals to purchase billions of euros worth of COVID-19 doses.

An inquiry by European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly published in January 2022 found the Commission had not asked von der Leyen’s office for the messages.

Ms O’Reilly wrote: “If text messages concern EU policies and decisions, they should be treated as EU documents.”

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However, in response, Commission Vice President Věra Jourová insisted there was no real dispute.

Writing in the Commission’s formal response to the maladministration opinion, she said: “The Commission and the Ombudsman agree that what matters is the content of a document.”

Jourová later added: “Due to their short-lived and ephemeral nature,” text messages “in general do not contain important information relating to policies, activities and decisions of the Commission.”

The New York Times declined to comment on the case. 

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A statement from the publication stated: “The Times files many freedom of information requests and maintains an active docket.

“We can’t comment at this time on the subject of this lawsuit.”

The case was published on the European Court of Justice’s public register on Monday after being officially lodged on January 25.

No further information is available online yet.

This is not the first time a publication has filed a lawsuit against the Commission as Germany’s Bild daily brought a case in order to release documents related to negotiations to buy the COVID-19 vaccines.

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