EU transparency for vaccine procurement contracts. Strasbourg: EU transparency regarding the development, purchase and distribution of vaccines against COVID-19 (debate) – Renew Vlad Gheorghe’s European Parliament speech (16.09.2021).
Trust is gained through transparency
Mr President, more than 18 months after the onset of the pandemic, we are facing new strains of the virus. In all Member States we have a new wave of infections and possible new restrictions in parallel with vaccination campaign.
Beyond any measures that can be taken economic and health-wise to effectively fight the new coronavirus, what can save us – both nationally and globally – is confidence.
We need the trust of European citizens that at the level of the Commission, of the European Parliament, of all institutions we work in the interest of the citizen, with all the data correctly evaluated and translated in our activity. We need public confidence that the measures taken are good, that the vaccines are safe and that we will soon return to normal life.
As we have seen since the beginning of the health crisis, this confidence has been lacking and is still lacking, to a greater or lesser extent, in all Member States. Why? Because there was a lack of transparency. You cannot ask national states to implement and communicate measures for which you, as the European Union, do not give complete and correct explanations. With regard to the development, purchase, distribution of vaccines, transparency is the main condition for stimulating and maintaining public confidence.
Contracts without secret paragraphs
As a member of the Committee on Petitions, I have noticed the absolutely natural desire of European citizens to find out all the information on vaccines. I have also repeatedly asked the Commission to make public the FULL versions of the contracts with the vaccine manufacturers. I am asking for it once more. We are now taking rapid steps towards administering a third dose of vaccine, at least for those most vulnerable.
For this third dose, will we witness secret negotiations and contracts again? Or given the past experience, does the Commission consider responding to my requests and those of my colleagues in the European Parliament, answering questions from journalists, civil society and European citizens and ensuring full transparency of these acquisitions?
I do not want to be misunderstood. The joint procurement is certainly a successful example of the EU’s contribution in an emergency. It is a clear proof that we are truly #StrongerTogether. But we cannot ignore the responsibility towards the European citizens we represent. We can’t spend their money other than transparently. We cannot tell them that their questions do not deserve answers. Especially in this crisis situation when we not only ask for their cooperation, but we also impose them exceptional measures.
The desire of Europeans for a Health Union is obvious and I hope that we will move quickly towards extended coordination in this area. How will this be able to function without strict compliance with the rules of accountability and transparency?
Correctness of future joint medical acquisitions
Another aspect, beyond the possibility of exercising parliamentary control in this case. From the perspective of my legal profession I point out that the lack of information on prices and liability in the contracts I consulted – of course, still partially secreted – is a dangerous precedent for future joint medical acquisitions. I also include here the purchase of the third dose. Does the Commission take into account the warnings of specialists about the evolution of Covid19 into a seasonal virus that requires regular immunizations? What are the Commission’s plans in this case? Will new procurement also be marked by this lack of transparency?
Let me, as a member of the Committee on Budgets, remind the Commission of Parliament’s budgetary control. There can be no exceptions to the way European citizens’ money is spent. And I emphasize, we are not just talking about budget management. We are talking about Europeans’ confidence in the Union now and in the future common challenge. Confidence that we really need, no matter which political party we represent at national level or which European Parliamentary group we belong to. It is about trust in the common European construction, in the European values constantly attacked both from inside and especially from outside the Union. I emphasize this aspect, which I think we should not let ourselves forget anymore.
I therefore expect the Commission to advance a concrete deadline for the full publication of vaccination contracts. Thank you.