Macron faces criticism, calls for inquiry over links to Uber lobbying

EuroActiv Politico News

PARIS — If Emmanuel Macron’s second term wasn’t challenging enough, he now has the “Uber Files” to contend with.

Opposition parties on both the left and the right are summoning the French president to explain his past support of Uber’s lobbying efforts in France, after revelations of privileged exchanges with the American ride-hailing company while he was finance minister in 2015.

The Uber Files is an investigation based on thousands of internal documents from Uber, sent by former Uber lobbyist Mark MacGann to the British daily the Guardian and transmitted to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 42 media partners.

The trove of documents reveal that while he was economy minister, Macron struck a deal favorable to Uber within the French Cabinet, apparently in response to the firm’s intense lobbying efforts, which included text messages between Macron and Uber’s co-founder Travis Kalanick.

The revelations provide ammunition to the French opposition that seized on the opportunity — particularly now that Macron no longer holds an absolute majority in parliament following June’s legislative election.

NUPES, the main opposition alliance, is requesting a parliamentary inquiry into “the role of Emmanuel Macron in the implementation of Uber in France,” a statement read.

“The idea that Emmanuel Macron deregulated taxis with this secret pact with a company is very serious,” NUPES MP Alexis Corbière told French media.

A number of lawmakers from other opposition parties also called for an inquiry, including National Rally MP Philippe Ballard, who told Franceinfo that the leak was “staggering” and proved Macron’s “Anglo-Saxon vision,” and Communist Party MP Pierre Dharréville, who said Macron’s actions were “against all our rules and our workers’ rights.”

Among the more notable exchanges published in the Uber Files, the French president reportedly texted Kalanick, “We had a meeting yesterday with the prime minister. [Then-Prime Minister] Cazeneuve will keep the taxi[s] quiet and I will gather everybidy [sic] next week to prepare the reform and correct the law. Caz accepted the deal.”

Responding to the revelations, the Elysée said in a statement to the Guardian that Macron’s role “naturally led him to meet and interact with many companies engaged in the sharp shift which came out during those years in the service sector.”

Some viewed the revelations as unsurprising, saying that much of what’s published is standard practice for lobbyists. Kévin Gernier, Transparency International France’s advocacy officer, said there’s “nothing surprising in the Uber Files, it’s an inventory of well-known lobbying techniques,” adding that “the emotion it has sparked is legitimate and calls for more transparency in response.” He added that “[Uber] didn’t cross the red line of corruption, but sometimes flirted with it.”

Those in Macron’s camp, and several lobbying industry actors, suggested the revelations were a storm in a teacup.

“It’s a good thing for a finance minister to meet companies,” Ilana Cicurel, an MEP for Macron’s party La République en Marche, told French media BFMTV.

Cédric O, who was an adviser to Macron during the timeframe of the leaks, and digital affairs minister from 2019 to May this year, tweeted that “it’s a struggle to see what’s so objectionable.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated when France held a parliamentary election. The vote was in June.

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