article-single

Commission Chief Faces Corruption Probe Over Pfizer Contracts

The EU can’t have its own puppets swashbuckling the high life and doing their own thing, can they?

Is it possible that the President of the European commission, Ursula von der Leyen is not quite as squeaky clean as some might assume? Do such lightweights, who define themselves by how much they fail to achieve, who come from the bowels of political obscurity in Germany rise to such prominence without a little help from powerful elites, masonic links and corrupt corporations?

The answer is of course. In fact, within the scope of the European Union and its institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg, this is largely the tradition: to either install puppets who serve powerful governments and their corrupt interests, or giant industry itself. Corruption rules.

And so it should come as little surprise that Ursula has been implicated in playing a murky role in a 35bn euro vaccine deal which stinks so much that it has the very dark powers in Brussels are working over time on a damage limitation plan to save the collective neck of the EU as it heads towards the abyss: its own elections in 2024, which are expected to have all time low voter turn out with far-right groups making a killing in the European parliament.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an “investigation” into the EU’s coronavirus vaccine purchases, an announcement that will throw a spotlight on Ursula von der Leyen’s odd behaviour at that time, according to probably the most pro establishment media outlet in Brussels, Politico.

The media outlet is so supportive and compliant to the EU that the fact that its journalists are breaking the story is important as it indicates that it is the EU hidden powers, the cabal in Brussels and Luxembourg which are never in the media sphere, which are worried about von der Leyen and her murky deals.

It’s unclear why The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), which claims to be an independent EU body responsible for investigating and prosecuting financial crimes, including fraud, money laundering and corruption, is handling the case when traditionally it would be OLAF – the EU’s own internal anti fraud unit. In the past OLAF has always been accused of not being objective enough in its investigations, often protecting high level EU officials. Are the powers that be trying to actually do the unthinkable and genuinely investigate von der Leyen for corruption?

Until this point, the whole story is opaque, without even the outline of a case.

The EPPO did not specify who was being investigated, or which contracts were the subject of inquiry. But that said, two other watchdog agencies have brought attention to the von der Leyen – Pfizer deal, probably one of these being OLAF.

Yet OLAF or the EPPO, like any EU institutions, are not exempt from being manipulated by national member states’ interests and in this case it appears that the Belgians have an axe to grind, with, at this stage, only intercepted text messages to go on.

Belgian Socialist member of European Parliament (MEP) Kathleen van Brempt said that “several aspects” of the Pfizer contract need to be looked into, including “the text messages between the Commission President and the fact that there is no paper trail of the preliminary negotiations in first instance.” Van Brempt is referring to text messages to the Pfizer CEO.

In April 2021, the New York Times first reported on these messages exchanged between von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in the run-up to the EU’s biggest vaccine procurement contract — for up to 1.8 billion doses of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, potentially being up to 35 billion euros when all was finalised.

In January this year, bizarrely, the EU’s ombudsman charged the Commission with maladministration for failing to look for the text messages in response to a freedom of information request. The commission played cat and mouse and pretended that such messages no longer existed.

All the old guard of the EU is circling around von der Leyen, which would indicate she has broken the house rules on putting her hand in the till.

Last month, the European Court of Auditors published the aforementioned report in which it said the Commission refused transparency regarding details of von der Leyen’s personal role in the Pfizer contract.

In it, the budget watchdog found that the EU chief went rogue in order to personally hammer out a preliminary deal with Pfizer, instead of relying on joint negotiating teams.

All of this points to the establishment wanting to make sure that the image of the EU is preserved. It may well be that the hapless Commission boss will be made a scapegoat but allowed to remain in office until 2024.

Corruption, even high level, within the EU is of course nothing new. In 1999, an entire European Commission cabinet of 20 members were forced to resign under a cloud of corruption allegations, which featured one French commissioner giving her dentist huge EU contracts worth hundreds of millions of euros, other commissioners employing friends and family members and one commissioner presiding over out of control embezzlement from the EU’s humanitarian fund.

High-level corruption within the corridors of EU institutions is a tradition largely protected by EU institutions supposedly created to prevent such graft. In the case of Ursula, she seems to have gone rogue and not respected house rules so will have to be made an example of. The EU can’t have its own puppets swashbuckling the high life and doing their own thing, can they?

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.