New twist in the SMS affair between von der Leyen and Pfizer before the Belgian courts

New twist in the SMS affair between von der Leyen and Pfizer before the Belgian courts
New twist in the SMS affair between von der Leyen and Pfizer before the Belgian courts

His complaint points out in particular a “destruction of public documents” which is criminally reprehensible.

A reference to text messages exchanged with Mr. Bourla that the German official would have deleted, despite their interest to the public and several requests made to be able to have access to them (by a journalist among others), still remaining unanswered.

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The complainant also believes that there has been a violation of the Code of Conduct for Members of the European Commission, an EU ethical regulation which requires members to respect “their duty of independence, honesty and of loyalty” in their functions.

Since 2023, Mr. Baldan has referred several Belgian courts as well as the EU justice system, in parallel with an investigation by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office which announced in October 2022 that it was launching investigations into the acquisition of anti-Covid vaccines in the EU.

He now believes that the European People’s Party (EPP, right), the leading force in the Strasbourg hemicycle, must withdraw Mrs von der Leyen’s candidacy for her own succession at the head of the European executive, after the elections held this this month.

This is the subject of the referral to the Brussels civil court in summary proceedings, that is to say urgently, since the heads of state and government of the EU are meeting on June 27 and 28 on the question the allocation of “top jobs”, key positions in the institutions (Commission, Parliament, European Council).

Jurisdictional conflict

“We are at the right time where you can do something,” Me Diane Protat, Mr. Baldan’s lawyer, told the court. “The EPP can present another candidate who will not be criminally indicted in an ongoing case.”

The request for withdrawal of PPE support must be accompanied by a financial penalty per day of delay, the lawyer also argued.

The decision will be rendered “before June 27”, said the judge in summary proceedings at the end of the hearing, at which the EPP was not represented. Asked by AFP, the party refused to comment.

By announcing its investigation in October 2022, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, an independent EU body responsible in particular for combating fraud with Union funds, highlighted the “extremely high public interest” on this issue of vaccines. (which the EU mainly purchased from the American-German duo Pfizer/BioNTech).

A hearing is scheduled for December before another Belgian court, in Liège (east), before which Mr. Baldan contests the jurisdiction of the European public prosecutor’s office.

The exchange of SMS messages between Ms. von der Leyen and Mr. Bourla, revealed by the New York Times in 2021, sparked controversy and led the EU ombudsman to intervene. In the summer of 2022, it judged the Commission’s refusal to send the text messages in question to the press as “problematic”.

Questioned in the context of the mediator’s report, the Commission stated in particular that this type of “ephemeral” document is not kept, unlike the others, and that searches to find them had remained in vain.

As for Frédéric Baldan, he says he has had his lobbyist accreditation withdrawn from the European Parliament in 2023 as a “retaliatory measure” after his attacks launched against Ms von der Leyen and the Commission.

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