The European Commission is being sued over its refusal to release text messages between its president and the boss of Pfizer, which manufactured a coronavirus vaccine.
Ursula von der Leyen and Albert Bourla exchanged personal messages, which the commission suggests may have been deleted, at the height of the pandemic.
The commission and pharmaceutical firm bosses were locked in negotiations for billions of euros worth of jabs, while the EU faced a major shortfall in deliveries of the new AstraZeneca vaccine.
Lawyers for The New York Times will argue in the EU’s top court that the failure to disclose the smartphone communications, dubbed “Deletegate”, breaks European transparency laws.
The newspaper lodged the case on Jan 25 and it was published by the European Court of Justice’s register on Monday.
“The Times files many freedom of information requests and maintains an active docket. We can’t comment at this time on the subject of this lawsuit,” it told the Politico website.
Brussels has said it cannot and is under no legal obligation to find the messages, which earned it a stern rebuke from the EU ombudsman in June.
The watchdog accused the commission of maladministration and said the texts should be covered by EU transparency rules in June.
Emily O’Reilly, the ombudsman, launched the inquiry after a request for the messages lodged by journalist Alexander Fanta.
Her probe found the commission did not ask Mrs von der Leyen’s office to search for the messages, which the EU executive claimed may have been deleted because of their “short-lived, ephemeral nature”.
Bild newspaper has already brought legal action to force the commission to reveal documents linked to the negotiations to buy vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca.
The tabloid lost some of those cases but it did obtain some email correspondence linked to the negotiations.