Uber files: does Europe need new lobbying rules?

Thousands of confidential documents exposing ride-hailing company Uber's aggressive lobbying practices from 2013 to 2017 have been leaked to the British newspaper The Guardian. The analysis of emails and chat messages by an international team of journalists has revealed how regulators were ensnared and data was concealed from investigators. Europe's press discusses stronger regulation and the willingness to introduce innovations.

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The Guardian (GB) /

Regulation that benefits everyone needed

The Guardian writes:

“Digital technologies could make life richer, more entertaining and more dignified. Properly governed, they could strengthen our democracy and enlarge the limits of our liberty. ... The great political mission of the next few decades should be to harness the power of technology for the good of humanity, not merely for the benefit of those lucky enough to own and control it. In this mission, democratic politics is our only hope. We need leaders bold enough to embrace new technologies, wise enough to recognise their limitations, creative enough to come up with alternative regulatory options and brave enough to put their foot down.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Moral failure

Former EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes also secretly lobbied for the US company - and in an immoral manner, De Volkskrant concludes:

“Lobbying in itself is not wrong as long as it is done transparently. And as long as the chances of success do not depend on whose wallet is fat enough to lure a few influential old politicians and their networks. But that is exactly what has happened here. ... She [Kroes] wanted to work there, but she was repeatedly forbidden to do so by the European Commission. So she did it in secret.”

Libertatea (RO) /

Romania: tax authority infiltrated

Libertatea takes a look at Uber's activities in Romania:

“In Romania, it doesn't take much documentation to know that something is definitely amiss. The daughter of the head of the National Agency for Fiscal Administration ANAF [whose regional offices scrutinise local companies' accounts] was even appointed as a boss by Uber! In effect, the company, which at the time was fighting with all of Europe and all of our tax authorities over legislation, managed to worm its way right into the family of the head of ANAF, Gelu Diaconu, in our country. The good news is that the Romanian police conducted a very serious investigation into the case at the time - one boss complained that they had even hired undercover police officers at Uber.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Taxi business could learn a lot from Uber

Uber has revolutionised passenger transport, says Der Standard:

“This app has the advantage of cashless payment and various functions, such as rating drivers according to politeness, driving behaviour and compliance with Covid regulations. This has a positive impact on customer friendliness. ... The bottom line is that the taxi industry has failed to also develop a customer-friendly app. ... The attractiveness of Uber and similar services was certainly based on a 'capitalist' model - with many migrants and asylum seekers finding work this way - but even more so on modern life. The traditional taxi industry, on the other hand, chose to rely solely on the 'political influence' model. Apparently with greater success than Uber.”

Politiken (DK) /

Strengthen authorities against mafia capitalism

Politiken calls for the power of the new super-corporations to be taken seriously:

“Phenomena like Alibaba and Amazon have given us cheaper books and goods, but also created behemoths that too often disregard labour rights, consumer protection and tax regulations. Phenomena like Facebook and Twitter have shaken our democracies. It is the responsibility and task of politicians to steer developments with equal regard for the need for renewal and a sense of community. No unholy and hidden alliances, please. But we do want strong authorities and oversight. ... The Uber revelations show what we sometimes have to deal with: brutal mafia capitalism.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

More transparency please!

Lobbying per se is not the problem, says the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“It can make sense for interest groups whose industry conditions are significantly influenced by a new law to contribute their expertise. Ask someone who knows about it: Who wouldn't agree that this is actually a good idea. The problem is that we still don't know enough about who talked to whom about what and when. ... The lobby register in this country should be improved - as the SPD and the Greens have proposed. Laws should be given a 'footprint' that clearly shows which interest groups have worked on them. If transparency were an Uber car, the app would show: the destination has not yet been reached.”


Lawless lobbying with Macron's help

Stelios Kouloglou, MEP for Syriza, comes down hard on the then French Economy Minister Macron in TVXS:

“The current French president worked undercover and pushed for laws that favoured a private company! The practices of a parliamentary banana republic, where a private company drafts the laws of parliament, are accompanied here by the respective patterns of behaviour. The company threatened its opponents and did not care about respecting the laws.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

There is no scandal

Macron, on the other hand, has done everything right, L'Opinion finds:

“So the President of the Republic, when he was Minister of the Economy, is said to have done everything to stimulate competition, smash privilege and attract foreign investors. ... He was not paid for that. Nothing he did seems to fall within the jurisdiction of any court except the court of self-righteousness convened by populists of all stripes who take offence at reading a journalistic investigation that reveals - quelle surprise - that a minister who is in charge of business and labour can have contacts with companies and even - great God - negotiate with foreign bosses.”

Postimees (EE) /

Clear rules for parliamentarians

Postimees calls for lobbying rules, which have applied to civil servants in Estonia since 2021, to be extended to all MPs:

“The most influential advocate for Uber's interests was Member of Parliament Kalle Palling, one of the closest advisors to then Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas. The Uber affair makes crystal clear how lobbying goes through parliamentarians, and this is far from being an isolated case. ... The Uber case, but also the Bolt affair [Estonian mobility company] confirm once again that lobbying also needs to be regulated among the members of parliament.”