Emmanuel Macron faces criticism after 'facilitating' Uber in France
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The just re-elected French leader is under enormous pressure after investigations by a consortium of media claimed he held several undeclared meetings with Uber executives while he was economy minister. According to the reports, branded Uber Files, a “secret deal” entailed Mr Macron promising to help the taxi app work around legislation introduced in France in 2014.
The Uber dealings sparked anger among opposition politicians, with several figures from the far-left to the hard-right urging a parliamentary inquiry be made into the findings.
Alexis Corbière, of France Unbowed, told national Public Senat television: “It’s very serious the idea that with this secret pact Mr Macron de-regulated the regulation of the taxi industry.
“What lessons should be drawn?”
Pierre Dharreville, of the Communist Party (PCF), supported Mr Corbiére’s calls for an investigation.
And Danielle Simonnet, also from France Unbowed, joined in during the first question session in the new French parliament on Tuesday as she criticised Mr Macron as “a minister who served the interests of an American platform against the view of government and the French administration”.
But Mr Macron appeared confident about the choices he made during his term in the ministry from 2014 to 2016.
When questioned by a journalist from Le Monde over his meetings with Uber executives, the 44-year-old president said: “I was a minister and I did my job.
“We’ve seen too much of a kind of atmosphere where meeting business heads, particularly when they are foreign, is seen as bad.”
Mr Mcron said his meetings with business leaders were “always official” and included members of his staff.
But according to the files, he failed to record at least three of four meetings with Uber’s chief executive and founder Travis Kalanick.
Among the more notable exchanges published in the Uber Files, Mr Macron reportedly texted Mr 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.”
The Uber files are based on a compilation of 124,000 documents that were leaked to the Guardian by Mark MacGann, the cab-hailing company’s former chief lobbyist in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In the face of criticism that he abandoned French workers in order to help a multinational giant, Mr Macron said: “I’m proud of it. If they have created jobs in France, I’m very proud of that, and you know what, I’d do it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.”
Speaking on the sidelines of an event to mark the building of a new semiconductor factory in Crolles, he said he was announcing new investment and the promise of 1,500 new jobs in France’s southeastern commune precisely because he had similarly “several months ago, and in a confidential way — because we have to preserve the secrets of companies — met the head of GlobalFoundries, who is here today”.
Mr Macron, who promised in his first successful presidential campaign to make his country a “startup nation”, said that as President, he had been the most outspoken global leader on regulating internet giants.
He told French media: “When I became president, we regulated the sector unsparingly. We are the first country who regulated online platforms, and after that, we pushed it at European level. So I’m extremely proud.”
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He added: “You know what, here’s a scoop: it’s very difficult to create jobs without businesses and entrepreneurs.
“So I will continue to meet businesses and entrepreneurs to convince them to invest in our country and I’ll do everything I can to open up sectors where activity is blocked, in order to create jobs.
“Because every young person who has had a job opportunity thanks to that, I’m pleased about.”
Mr Macron, who lost control of parliament in last month’s legislative elections, stayed firm on his approach throughout his comments to journalists.
But across the political spectrum, the discontent is barely hideable.
PCF leader Fabien Roussel described the Uber allegations as “damning revelations about the active role played by Emmanuel Macron, then minister, to facilitate the development of Uber in France”.
He said Mr Macron acted “against all our rules, all our social rights and against workers’ rights”.
Mathilde Panot, from France Unbowed, condemned on Twitter what she described as the “pillage of the country” during Macron’s time as minister under President François Hollande.
She described the president as a “lobbyist” for a “US multinational aiming to permanently deregulate labour law”.
Jordan Bardella, president of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party, tweeted that the Uber files showed “a common thread” in Mr Macorn’s trajectory – “to serve private interests, often foreign, before national interests”.
The junior minister, Olivia Grégoire, came out in support of her boss.
She replied to parliament that Mr Macron, as economy minister, had “done his job”.
She said: “He met Uber, he also met, let’s be precise: Netflix, Airbnb, Tesla, and closer to home, [the French businesses] Doctolib, Backmarket. Why? Because these businesses are at the heart of the economy today, at the heart of the economy of the 21st century, and it’s a reality — whatever you think on the issue — that that’s where growth and jobs are.”
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