"Pillage of the country", "Sold to the lobbies", "State scandal": The French President splashed by the revelations of the "Uber Files"

In reaction to the wave of indignation aroused by the revelations of the “Uber Files“, Emmanuel Macron comes out of his silence and says”fully assumehis disputed action with Uber. “I would do it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow“, adds the former Minister of the Economy who explains having acted”to create thousands of jobs“. It is not said that the opposition, which calls for a parliamentary commission of inquiry, is content with this statement made on the sidelines of a trip to the provinces.

When he was François Hollande’s Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital, Emmanuel Macron met with Uber officials and agreed with them on a “deal” to support their development strategy in France. He would even have contributed, between 2014 and 2015, to changing the laws to give a boost to American business.

These secret maneuvers went against the position of the French government, hostile to the American giant, its questionable methods and its policy of fait accompli. This is what we learn from a vast international survey of journalists carried out by the British daily The Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

A laconic reaction from the Elysée on the day of these revelations only added to the anger and indignation, widely expressed in the media and social networks. A good part of the French political class condemns the role of facilitator played by Emmanuel Macron between 2014 and 2017 in the establishment of Uber, to the detriment of French taxis.

Macronie tries to make it a non-event

The Minister of Public Accounts Gabriel Attal stepped up to lend a hand to the President, claiming that he don’t even see the topic. Emmanuel Macron’s allies are trying to cope and display an apparent serenity that contrasts with the feverishness shown by the public press agency, AFP, on Sunday July 10.

The treatment she gave to the “Uber Files” with which 44 media partners around the world were associated, speaks volumes about the unease born of the revelations around the brutal practices, when they were not illegal, of the company. American supported by the former minister of the economy.

Crushing the rules of agency journalism without fear of being laughable, Agence France Presse does not make a single reference to the role played by President Emmanuel Macron in the expansion of Uber in France while he occupies a place center, all over the world, of the media’s treatment of “Uber Files”. There is no doubt that AFP has been instructed not to mention the president’s name despite being quoted several times in the documents that have been revealed. How could a self-respecting media conceal elements implicating a sitting head of state among the approximately 124,000 documents dated from 2013 to 2017? AFP did.

Macron, unexpected support for Uber

The mass of information consulted by the journalists associated with this file includes emails and messages from Uber executives at the time, as well as presentations, notes and invoices, as well as the content of text messages.

They shed light on the Californian group which knowingly flirted with the limits of legality and which found unexpected support with the occupant of Bercy at the time, according to the reaction of the founder and CEO of the company. , Travis Kalanick after his first meeting with Emmanuel Macron on October 1, 2014.

The brand new Thévenoud law then came into force with drastic provisions for those who wanted to become an Uber driver, three years after the arrival of the American company in France.
The law de facto banned UberPop, a service that angered French taxis because it allowed anyone to become an occasional driver.

Emmanuel Macron had been Minister of the Economy for a month when he received the sulphurous CEO of Uber, accompanied for this first contact by top decision-makers from the company, including the chief lobbyist for the Europe, Africa, Middle -Orient, Mark MacGann and David Plouffe, the former adviser to Barack Obama, who has just been appointed vice-president of Uber.

The “Uber Files” whistleblower is a witness to the events

The documents revealed by the “Uber Files” show an unexpected joy from the officials of the American firm: “in one word: spectacular. Never seen “, writes Mark MacGann in a brief report sent in stride to his colleagues. “ A lot of work to come, but we will soon be dancing”, “mega top meeting with Emmanuel Macron this morning. France loves us after all”he also adds.

These reactions from the lobbyist are interesting to note, because the whistleblower behind the “Uber Files” is none other than him. He has obviously left his post since, but it is instructive to say the least to see that he then put his network and his know-how at the service of Uber to castigate today the practices of the American firm of which he was nevertheless a member. centerpiece in its establishment in Europe.

Emmanuel Macron, much more than just support?

In response to these revelations on Sunday July 10, the Elysée had indicated that Emmanuel Macron, in his capacity as Minister of the Economy, was “naturally brought to exchange with many companies involved in the profound change in services that occurred during the years mentioned, which should be facilitated by unraveling certain administrative or regulatory locks”.

The problem with this reaction is that Emmanuel Macron’s meeting with Uber officials remained confidential. In fact, it was not on his agenda. Thus, the files made public show to what extent Emmanuel Macron was, in Bercy, much more than a simple support. He was a partner, write the publications of the consortium associated with these revelations which illustrate their point by listing the various actions of Emmanuel Macron in favor of the American multinational.

Uber seeks Macron for legal disputes

Thus, he advised Uber to send “turnkey” amendments to the Thévenoud law to friendly deputies, “almost apologizing” of its entry into force, according to an account written by lobbyist Mark MacGann for his Anglophone colleagues. The questions raised by this support are all the more delicate since Uber France, suspected of tax evasion, did not hesitate to solicit Minister Macron when the police searched its premises.

According to the documents, in the 18 months following Emmanuel Macron’s arrival at Bercy, there were at least 17 significant contacts (meetings, calls, text messages) between the minister or his close advisers and Uber teams. in France, including at least four meetings between the minister and Travis Kalanick.

While the government denounces, Macron supports

Emmanuel Macron has never made a secret of his sympathy for Uber, which he believes can generate jobs, especially for low-skilled people. “I’m not going to ban Uber, that would be firing [les jeunes de banlieue sans qualifications] sell drugs in Stains[Seine-Saint-Denis]»he told Mediapart in 2016.

Still, apart from the Minister of the Economy, Uber had the entire French government against it: no one in the executive wanted to defend it. At the Ministry of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve – on whom the regulation of the taxi sector depended – did not hide his hostility towards the service which has been the subject of at least four different legal investigations. Manuel Valls, then Prime Minister, did not show sympathy towards Uber, and Alain Vidalies, the boss of Transport, was always wary of it, because no guarantee of sustainable employment was offered.

Uber: sexism, workplace harassment and brutal practices

In addition, the bad reputation of the CEO of Uber weighed heavily on the operation of the company to the point of causing his departure from the post of CEO of the group in 2017. Travis Kalanick was accused of having encouraged questionable and brutal managerial practices, on workplace sexism and harassment background. He will eventually resign from the board at the end of 2019.

For the daily The Guardian, “the company has broken the law, deceived police and regulators, exploited violence against drivers and secretly lobbied governments around the world“. On the side of Uber France, we confirm the holding of several meetings with Emmanuel Macron, specifying that they “were part of his responsibilities as Minister of the Economy and Digital supervising the VTC sector”.

Indignation and condemnation

“He has always sought to roll out the red carpet at Uber” , comments the former PS deputy Thomas Thévenoud who gave his name to the law which governs the rights and duties of taxis and VTCs (transport cars with driver). Emmanuel Macron “is the entry point for private interests in France”, accuses the president of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella.

The number one of the PCF, Fabien Roussel meanwhile, talks about “damning revelations”and Pierre Dharréville, also a communist deputy, calls for a parliamentary commission of inquiry. “We are facing a state scandal” , protests the deputy Europe Ecology the Greens, Aurélien Taché and on the side of La France Insoumise, the reactions are more lively. Mathilde Panot, the leader of LFI deputies in the National Assembly talks about “pillage of the country” on his Twitter account, expressing indignation, in a second publication, that Emmanuel Macron’s new digital minister, Jean-Noël Barrot, has the communications director of Uber France as a sister.

This information raises an essential question:” good relations “ of Uber with the former Minister of the Economy did they continue on his arrival at the Elysée? According to the register of the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life, representatives of Uber met with collaborators of President Macron on eight occasions between 2017 and 2022. In 2018, Dara Khosrowshahi, Travis Kalanick’s replacement, was same part of the VIPs of the “Tech for Good” summit, organized by the President of the Republic.

Do as I say, not as I do

Against the advice of the President, François Hollande and the Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, and while the government was facing the anger of taxi drivers, Emmanuel Macron acted in favor of the establishment of the American giant on the French market. Then Minister of the Economy, he behaved like a “partner”.

Pending the conclusions of the parliamentary commission of inquiry that the French opposition is calling for, we can already wonder about the lack of transparency that the former Minister of Economy on the treatment of the multinational Uber, with which it continues to maintain relations which also remain to be clarified.

The “Uber Files” offer us the opportunity to point out the shortcomings of the occupant of the Elysée who would benefit from departing from the arrogance and condescension which place him as an incorrigible lesson giver. He strings together small sentences, especially since his arrival at the Elysée, to castigate here and there, by dint of” I want “which plunges us into a paternalism that we thought had disappeared.

Once he attacks the French, “refractory Gauls”, another he calls into question the probity of the former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, one day he distributes the good and bad points to the Lebanese political class and one morning, he wants to dictate to his African counterparts what to do about vaccinations, while his own health policy has proven calamitous.

He who hates being lectured to is well placed to know that those who like to give lessons always end up suffering the repercussions of their attacks.

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