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16th Aug 2022

Kroes' Uber lobbying needs wide investigation, say campaigners

  • Revolving doors of former EU commissioners, including Neelie Kroes caricatured in centre, was already an issue in 2016 when this picture was taken (Photo: Aleksandra Eriksson)
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Transparency campaigners are demanding the European Commission launch a full investigation into Uber lobbyist and former commission vice-president Neelie Kroes.

The Brussels-based Corporate Europe Observatory advocacy group says the wide probe is needed in light of her EU obligations to behave with "integrity and discretion".

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In a letter sent to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday (14 July), the NGO further demanded Kroes' access badge to the institution be revoked and that Uber be stripped from the EU's joint-transparency register.

"There should also be a full investigation into how the commission handled these matters in the 2014-16 period," they said.

Kroes was among the high-profile figures named in the Uber Files, an investigation released earlier this week that showed how the firm muscled its way into markets.

She was commission competition chief from 2004-10, and then became the digital agenda commissioner up until 2014.

The Uber Files investigation revealed she was offering to arrange meetings for Uber during her 18-month cooling off period after leaving the commission. She had also secretly helped Uber lobby the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, according to the Guardian.

The European Commission has since sent Kroes a letter, demanding an explanation.

But campaigners say a proper investigation is needed, as well as an overhaul of the Commissioner revolving doors rules.

Lobbying the Commission

The statement comes amid new findings of how many times lobbyists meet with Von der Leyen's team of European Commissioners.

Transparency International EU, also on Thursday, says commissioners and their high-level staff have held a total of 14,397 meetings with lobbyists since the start of Von der Leyen's term in 2019.

Some 28 percent of those meetings were with companies, followed by 26 percent with trade and business associations, and 25 percent with NGOs.

The remainder were divided up between trade unions, consultancies, research institutions, among others.

Most of those meetings were held with commissioner cabinet members.

Issues dealing with the European Green Deal ranked top in terms of number of meetings, followed by the internal market and then financial services.

BusinessEurope, a Brussels-based umbrella group representing firms, held the most top level meetings, it said.

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