Luxembourg MEP lodges legal case to disclose EU vaccine deal
By Yannick Hansen and Diego Velazquez
Luxembourg MEP Tilly Metz and four other EU lawmakers have launched legal action to try and force the European Commission to publish key details of the multi-billion euro contracts it signed with pharmaceutical giants to supply Covid-19 vaccines.
The five Green Party MEPs confirmed that they had filed an application to the EU's top court, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, in a press release on Friday. The group said they had decided to take legal action after the Commission released heavily redacted versions of the contracts, saying that the "redactions made it impossible to understand the content of the agreements".
“Transparency is a key tool in the fight against Covid-19. Secrecy is a breeding ground for distrust and scepticism, and it has no place in public agreements with pharmaceutical companies," EU lawmaker Margrete Auken said. "The European Commission’s refusal to provide transparency on its vaccine contracts affects the public’s confidence in the EU’s ability to obtain the best possible outcome for its citizens," she added.
More than 850 million Covid-19 jabs have been dished out across the European Union, according to data published on the Our World in Data website, which is run in part by Oxford University.
EU lawmakers who wanted to look into the lucrative contracts had to sign non-disclosure agreements and could not make notes of the documents, the Luxemburger Wort reported.
"We are always as transparent as possible", a spokesman for the Commission told the newspaper. Parts of the text have been redacted because of contractual obligations, the spokesman added.
In the summer of 2020, just months after the outbreak of the pandemic, the Commission concluded contracts with six different vaccine suppliers on behalf of member states.
However, the contract with British-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca put the spotlight on the EU's vaccine procurement policy, when the vaccine maker fell behind on its delivery schedules at the start of 2021, while continuing to supply the United Kingdom. The delays prompted Brussels to sue the company.
The Commission and AstraZeneca agreed to release a redacted version of their agreement in January 2021.