Uber leak: French Parliament to debate Macron’s dealings

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron’s allies braced Tuesday for a clash with the opposition in Parliament, amid public outrage over a trove of documents detailing close links between Uber and Macron during his time as economy minister.

The revelations have prompted mounting calls for a parliamentary inquiry, with some members of the opposition describing the content of the documents as a looming “state scandal” and potential evidence of a “collusion of interests.”

The accusations were expected to at least partially dominate the first parliamentary question session since the elections last month, set to begin at midafternoon local time. Macron lost his absolute majority, leaving him exposed to substantially more scrutiny than in his first term, and under political pressure from his emboldened far-left and far-right opponents.

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“A president — or someone who wants to become one — cannot be a lobbyist in the service of the interests of private companies,” Alexis Corbière, vice president of the main far-left party’s parliamentary group, said Monday. He and others have suggested a special inquiry that would go beyond the debates expected in the French National Assembly on Tuesday and in the Senate on Wednesday.

The opposition’s criticism is based on Uber executives’ internal messages from 2013 to 2017, revealed by Le Monde, The Washington Post and other outlets on Sunday, which suggest that Macron’s backing for the company went far beyond what had been known publicly — and on occasion conflicted with the policies of the left-leaning government he served at the time.

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 DC-based nonprofit newsroom, and dozens of other news organizations worldwide.

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

According to the files, Uber managers and lobbyists believed that Macron was willing to support them by pushing regulators to be “less conservative” in their interpretation of rules limiting the company’s operations and by attempting to ease rules that hampered the company’s expansion in France. At times, even Uber was surprised by the extent of its backing, internal communications show.

Asked for comment ahead of publication of the documents, the French presidency said in a statement to The Post and other outlets that the “economic and employment policies at the time, in which [Macron] was an active participant, are well known” and that his “functions naturally led him to meet and interact with many companies.” Asked for additional comment after publication, the Élysée Palace on Monday referred reporters back to its earlier statement.

Macron’s allies appeared ready this week to defend his interactions with the company. Budget Minister Gabriel Attal portrayed the outrage as overblown on Tuesday. “As usual, we make a ton of foam with a gram of soap,” he said on BFM TV. “I don’t even see an issue.”

But the files could prompt uncomfortable questions for Macron and his supporters in Parliament.

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

Macron, who was reelected in April, has sought to liberalize the French economy — and, according to his critics, that has involved steamrolling anyone who raises concerns about the social impact of his moves.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has regularly complained of the “uberization” of French society, an umbrella term used to describe ride-hailing and home delivery services, and he lashed out against Macron’s support for a sector that he views as having undermined worker rights. Mélenchon is now the public face of the biggest opposition bloc in the lower house of Parliament, where the possible inquiry would be expected to take place.

Members and allies of Mélenchon’s party, France Unbowed, were among the most vocal critics this week.

Mathilde Panot, the alliance’s leader in Parliament, suggested that Macron had helped Uber in “looting the country” and criticized the president for having acted as a “lobbyist for a US multinational aiming to permanently deregulate labor law.”

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