• Kroes: 'A strike won’t work ... we need a real dialogue.' (Photo: Adolfo PM)

EU commissioner lashes out at Europe-wide taxi protest

12.06.14 @ 09:29

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - EU digital affairs commissioner Neelie Kroes on Wednesday (11 June) lashed out against taxi drivers who are protesting against new smartphone apps.

“We cannot address these challenges by ignoring them, by going on strike, or by trying to ban these innovations out of existence,” said the commissioner in her blog.

Kroes said the apps are needed as part of a growing digital economy and recommended taxis take advantage of the new innovations.

“The disruptive force of technology is a good thing overall. It eliminates some jobs and it changes others,” she wrote.

Taxi drivers complain mobile apps like Uber give an unfair competitive advantage to unregistered drivers over their heavily regulated industry.

The apps allow people to work out the cost of a ride, connects them to the nearest vehicle, and tracks their location in real-time. But registered cabs say the expanding mobile technology acts as a de facto taxi-meter and does not conform to strict regulations.

Unlike private vehicles, registered cab drivers often have to pay large sums of money for training and to receive their licences.

To voice their frustration, cab drivers caused major traffic disruptions in European cities on Wednesday, including Paris, Madrid, London, Milan, Berlin and elsewhere.

In Madrid, taxis refused to take passengers from the Barajas airport or Atocha station even though Uber is reportedly not used in the capital.

Some of the worst disruptions were in Paris with hundreds of cabs slowing down traffic and others blocking roads to Roissy airport.

The BBC reports around 4,000 cabs blocked roads in and around Parliament Square, Whitehall and Trafalgar Square in London.

London commuters were not impressed.

Many, who had never heard of the Uber app until the protest, are said to have turned to it as an alternative to the protesting cabs.

According to London’s Globe and Mail, the number of first-time Uber users surged by 850 percent compared to an average day. “Many people had never heard of Uber, but have heard about it now,” a commuter told the paper.

The US-based app is available in over 100 cities worldwide but is facing legal challenges. It is banned in Brussels.