Engerer laments lack of transparency as Commission ‘discloses’ COVID-19 vaccine contracts

Cyrus Engerer says that the European Commission and European Parliament have both missed out on good opportunities to increase transparency despite calls for greater accountability

Maltese MEP Cyrus Engerer
Maltese MEP Cyrus Engerer

Members of the European Parliament have been left disappointed after an effort by the European Commission to satisfy calls for transparency on the COVID-19 vaccinations procurement process proved to an exercise in futility.

Following the tense exchanges between the Commission and vaccine producer AstraZeneca after the latter announced a slowdown in deliveries to the EU, the European Parliament had called on the Commission to disclose details of the delivery contracts signed with the major pharmaceutical companies working on COVID-19 vaccinations.

Cyrus Engerer, a Maltese MEP within the EP’s S&D parliamentary group and a member of the EP’s Health Committee, was one of a few select MEPs invited to the Commission’s office to view the contracts.

“Unfortunately we were left very disappointed as practically the entire contracts had been redracted or blacked out,” he said during an online press conference with the Maltee press organised by the EP’s representative office in Malta.

“What had not been blacked out was innocuous and we could not even make sense of those, as many sentences and sections did not flow due to the redacted sections.”

Engerer said that the need for transparency and accountability across EU institutions – including the Commission and the European Court of Justice – was gaining momentum daily.

“It is unfortunate that after agreeing on the need for a mandatory transparency register, heavily promoted by Malta during its presidency of the EU, the European Commission and European Parliament had finally decided to adopy a heavily water-down version of the proposal,” he said. “It is a pity that the EU missed this chance to become more transparent and accountable to its citizens.”

Enegerer added that once his website went online in the near future, it would include a transparency register where he would be listing all the meetings he holds, and with whom.

Commission President will be appearing before the European Parliament on Wednesday to update MEP on the EU vaccine rollout effort thus far.

He said that Maltese MEPs have written to Von Der Leyen, asking that the Commission prepare a contingency plan should researchers conclude that a third dose of the AstraZeneca will be needed to cover all known strains of the virus.

Engerer said the joint procurement of vaccines for all EU member states had proven a success, highlighting the benefits gained when member states worked together instead of individually.

He said that the Maltese citizens, like others across the EU, were now calling for more similar cooperation in other health-related issues.

“We have discussed a possible European Health Union, where member states would work together on a number of issues, including cancer research and treatment,” Engerer said.

He said he was much in favour of such a union and very much against nationalism in health-related matters.

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