A year ago, the EU Commission President revealed that she had been texting with the Pfizer chief during the contractual negotiations over the delivery of vaccine vials. When journalists asked for access to the texts, Mrs von der Leyen refused, prompting a probe by Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly.
According to the EU's regulations on public access to institutional documents, a document is defined as any information about the policies, activities and decisions that are relevant to the institution's sphere of responsibility, but in principle text messages are not a long-lived document, which in principle would exclude instant messaging, which is the reason for a vaccine row between the block and UK-Swedish drug-maker AstraZeneca. Ms O'Reilly launched an inquiry into the European Commission's refusal to hand over the contents of communications between Ms Von der Leyen and the Pfizer CEO in September.
There is a debate among some EU member states about the extent to which text messages sent by senior officials when undertaking official business. Ms Von der Leyen has been criticised for this issue in the past. In 2019, she faced backlash after she discovered that a mobile phone used in a contracting scandal at the German Defence Ministry had been wiped clean. Ms Von der Leyen said when talking about the matter in late 2019, nothing is lost because text messages are suitable for fast communication.