According to a media report, a data leak exposed the aggressive lobbying campaign of the US transport service provider Uber in its efforts to enter the European market. More than 124,000 internal documents from 2013 to 2017 showed how Uber “tried to influence politicians, officials and journalists,” reported NDR, WDR and “Süddeutsche Zeitung” on Sunday.
Current French President Emmanuel Macron, an FDP MP and a former EU Commissioner maintained close contacts with the company.
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According to the report, an exchange of text messages suggests that in 2015, when Macron was the economy minister, he opposed an Uber-critical decree from a French police prefect at the company’s request. “I will look at the matter personally,” Macron wrote, according to NDR, WDR and “SZ” – after which the regulation was relaxed the same evening.
The French newspaper “Le Monde” reported, citing numerous documents, text messages and witnesses, that there had been secret agreements between Uber and the then Economics Minister Macron. Accordingly, his ministry was trying to help the transport service provider to consolidate its position in France. It was suggested to the company to submit fully formulated amendments to the deputies.
When asked by AFP, the Elysée Palace said that Macron, as Economy Minister, was “naturally” in contact with many of the companies involved at a time when “profound changes” were taking place in the service sector.
The opposition in France reacted with outrage to the reports. The parliamentary group leader of the left, Mathilde Panot, accused Macron of having acted as a “lobbyist” for a US company “which wants to permanently deregulate labor law”. The communist deputy Pierre Dharréville called for a parliamentary investigation into the events.
In Germany, according to the report, the FDP politician Otto Fricke coordinated Uber’s lobbying campaign. Fricke was a member of the Bundestag from 2002 to 2013, then worked as a lobbyist and returned to politics and the Bundestag in 2017.
According to internal Uber documents, his political contacts helped push through a change in the Passenger Transport Act in the sense of the driving service provider.
Also explosive is the case of the renowned economist Justus Haucap, who, according to research, is said to have placed a commissioned study and an Uber-friendly newspaper article in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” in December 2014. Haucap is a member of the Board of Trustees of the FAZIT Foundation, which aims to ensure the journalistic independence of the “FAZ”.
At the EU level, Uber secured the support of EU Commissioner for Digital Affairs Neelie Kroes, according to the report. After leaving Brussels in 2014 and after an 18-month waiting period imposed by the Commission, the Dutchwoman took on a well-paid consultant job at the US company.
However, documents from the data leak suggest that there was contact between Kroes and Uber during the waiting period in connection with a police raid on Uber in Amsterdam in March 2015. The company was therefore very keen to keep this secret. According to the media, there is a risk that Kroes will spark a debate about “the political revolving door and nepotism”.
It is urgent that the so-called tech companies are regulated and comply with democratic laws and tax obligations. Otherwise they destroy the cohesion in our society.
The dataset was leaked to UK newspaper The Guardian and includes emails, presentations, briefings, text messages and charts that were evaluated in collaboration with other international media.