Uber files a leak: Macron’s transactions could trigger a parliamentary inquiry

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron was facing public criticism and parliamentary scrutiny on Monday after a trove of documents detailing close ties between him and Uber during his tenure as France’s economy minister.

“It is urgent to be able to obtain clarifications and to draw the consequences,” said Alexis Corbière, the vice-president of the parliamentary group of the main far-left party, who suggested a special investigation beyond the expected debates. in the National Assembly and Senate this week. “A president – or someone who wants to become one – cannot be a lobbyist serving the interests of private companies,” Corbiere said, according to Public Senate, a parliamentary television channel.

France‘s left-wing and far-right opposition parties, emboldened by recent gains in the country’s legislative elections, jumped on the revelations on Sunday evening and Monday morning, describing them as an imminent threat. “state scandal” and potential evidence of a “collusion of interests”.

Macron has never hidden that he was an early supporter of Uber. But internal messages from company executives from 2013 to 2017 suggest his support went far beyond what had been publicly known – and sometimes clashed with the policies of the leftist government he served to the time.

While Uber established itself in France, Emmanuel Macron was a “true ally”

The documents are part of the Uber Files, a trove of more than 124,000 internal records obtained by the Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit newsroom, and dozens other news outlets around the world, including The Washington Post.

On Monday, former Uber lobbyist Mark MacGann publicly identified himself as the source of the files. The Washington Post and other project partners had previously agreed to keep his identity confidential.

According to the filings, Uber executives and lobbyists believed Macron was willing to back them by pushing regulators to be “less conservative” in their interpretation of rules limiting the company’s operations, and attempting to loosen the rules. which hindered the expansion of the company in France. Sometimes Uber was even surprised by the extent of its support, internal communication show.

Asked before the documents were released, the French presidency said in a statement to the Post and other media that “the economic and employment policies of the time, in which [Macron] was an active participant, are well known” and that his “duties naturally led him to meet and interact with many companies”. Asked for additional comment after the publication, the Élysée on Monday referred journalists to its previous statement.

“I knew it [Macron] was in favor of Uber,” said Alain Vidalies, who served as France’s secretary of state for transport from 2014 to 2017. But “I have to say that even I am flabbergasted,” Vidalies told the French public broadcaster.

About the Uber Files survey

Although the documents end in 2017, the year Macron was elected president, they relate directly to how Macron has attempted to implement his agenda ever since.

Macron, who won re-election in April, has sought to liberalize the French economy – and, according to his critics, that has involved stifling anyone worried about the social impact of his measures.

This criticism should find greater stage in parliament during its second term, now that it has lost its absolute parliamentary majority, amid far-left and far-right gains. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a staunch critic of Uber and other multinationals operating in France, is now the public face of the largest opposition bloc in the lower house of parliament, where the eventual investigation.

Takeaways from the Uber Files survey

Mélenchon has regularly complained about the “uberisation” of French society, an umbrella term used to describe carpooling and home delivery services, and he has lashed out at Macron’s support for a sector he considered to have violated workers’ rights.

Members and allies of Mélenchon’s France Unbowed party were among the most vocal critics on Monday.

Mathilde Panot, leader of the alliance in Parliament, suggested that Macron had helped Uber to “loot the country” and blamed the president for having acted as “a lobbyist for an American multinational aimed at permanently deregulating the labor law “.

Aurélien Taché, a leftist MP, said the files raised questions about “Emmanuel Macron’s conception of loyalty in politics, to the government to which he belonged at the time and to his country”.

According to the records, Macron was in frequent contact with Uber executives between 2014 and 2016 and strategized on measures that at times appeared to conflict with the goals of then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls and d others who advocated tougher rules for Uber and similar businesses.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right party – which, despite losing the presidential election, won 11 times more seats in last month’s legislative elections than in 2017 – has also taken up the files, describing them as “Emmanuel Macron’s first scandal”. five-year term. »

But Macron’s allies – who still hold a simple majority in parliament – appeared ready to defend his dealings with the company.

“It is above all the president who has allowed the arrival of a certain number of companies and effectively to promote the emergence of companies in our country, to promote their establishment, to support our reindustrialization, to facilitate the creation of jobs. . I believe that is clearly the role of an economy minister and a head of state,” Aurore Bergé, who leads Macron’s party in parliament, said on French television.

The Uber files may raise questions in France that go beyond the scope of Macron’s support.

Uber used violent attacks on its drivers to pressure politicians

The files also show that Uber used secret technology to thwart government raids as it expanded globally. And as enraged taxi drivers, fearing for their professional survival, clashed with their Uber competitors on the streets of Paris in 2015 and 2016, some corporate executives saw physical confrontations as a way to win public sympathy and support.

“The most important question” now, writes Cedric Oformer French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs under Macron, “is whether the establishment [of Uber] was a good thing socially and economically.

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