Uber Files: Time to Make EU leaders ethically responsible for their proximity with corporate power

Uber Files: Time to Make EU leaders ethically responsible for their proximity with corporate power

The Good Lobby and its founder Professor Alberto Alemanno provided legal analysis to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in their investigation of the “Uber Files”: a leak of more than 124,000 documents that show the lengths Uber went to disrupt the taxi industry in Europe and avoid regulation to maintain their often-scrutinized business model. 

Dating from 2012-2017, these documents reveal the extent to which relationships with lenient politicians, most notably President Macron of France, but also then outgoing EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, helped them infiltrate the transportation market despite domestic outcry from taxi drivers and regulatory hurdles for drivers. 

According to Professor Alemanno, the Uber files revealed not only the systemic proximity between corporate and political power but also the embarrassing inadequacy of our legal system and political culture to tackle the former. While ethics rules exist at the EU level, their enforcement is left to the political authority of the relevant institution, be it the EU Commission President (neither Barroso nor Juncker acted against Neelie Kroes) or the EU Parliament President. 

Indeed, evidence suggests that Neelie Kroes secretly lobbied for Uber during her “cooling off” period, directly engaging with a number of Dutch policymakers on their behalf before immediately joining Uber’s advisory board when her “cooling off” period ended. 

“This underlines that Ms Kroes was in a clear breach of the rules”, says Alberto Alemanno, referring to the EU Ethics Rules that aim to reduce revolving doors and conflict of interest when EU officials leave office. 

The implications of this leak go beyond Uber and once again highlight the urgency of the proposal of an EU Ethics Body, as demanded by EU Parliament and Council in 2021. The Good Lobby contributed to the design of such an EU Ethics Body, by putting forward a study presented to the EU Parliament. 

 “It makes me feel that our system is probably not fit for purpose because this situation should have been prevented,” says Alemanno. For further details on this story, you can watch Panorama: Taking us for a ride: The Uber Files on BBC Two at 20:00 BST on Monday 11 July.

For media inquiries please contact: Maria Luís Fernandes ([email protected])