Ursula von der Leyen is facing a call to resign as president of the European Commission after the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) confirmed on Friday it has opened an investigation into the EU’s coronavirus vaccine purchases.
Speaking in the European Parliament on Monday, Romania’s MEP Cristian Terhes of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group called for the Commission chief to step down from her role “since her actions are [being] criminally investigated by EU prosecutors.”
While the EPPO confirmed an investigation has been launched into the EU’s procurement of coronavirus vaccines, it did not specifically name von der Leyen or any particular manufacturing contract it intends to investigate further.
EU watchdog agencies have previously expressed their concern over high-level communication between the CEO of Pfizer and von der Leyen, particularly regarding a number of text messages shared between the two individuals for which von der Leyen did not produce transcripts when asked to do so for the sake of transparency and accountability.
Terhes claimed that “Ursula von der Leyen must immediately and unconditionally resign from her position as president of the European Commission due to the fact that her actions are currently being criminally investigated by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
“The EPPO just announced a few days ago that it is investigating the way the contracts were signed between the Commission and the producers of vaccines, and this is what the Court of Auditors just stated in a report released a few days ago:
The Commission has signed, up to November 2021, €71 billion worth of contracts on behalf of member states to purchase up to 4.6 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses.EU Court of Auditors
“That means that she purchased 10 doses of vaccines for every EU citizen,” Terhes revealed, “based on contracts that were never released to the public.”
“This is how the contracts that she signed with pharmaceutical companies were released to the public,” the Romanian MEP said, presenting two heavily redacted pages of a procurement contract between the Commission and a vaccine manufacturer.
“How is this possible in a European Union that is called to be transparent with the way it is using people’s money?” Terhes asked, before returning to his call for von der Leyen’s resignation.
An earlier investigation by the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, into the procurement agreement between the Commission and Pfizer found the EU executive to be guilty of “maladministration” after text messages between von der Leyen and Pfizer chief, Albert Bourla, were not stored appropriately by the Commission and therefore were unavailable for scrutiny. The bloc’s executive argued that the text messages were not covered by the EU law regarding the requirement to store documents relating to policy, a position O’Reilly found to have fallen short of the levels of transparency required within the bloc’s legal framework.