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Uber leak: Macron defends dealings with company as inquiry looms

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Uber leak: Macron defends dealings with company as inquiry looms

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has defended his interactions with Uber during his tenure as economy minister, seeking to counter growing criticism that has sparked calls for an investigation, and took center stage in Tuesday’s parliamentary debate.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done,” Macron told reporters during a visit to the Isère region in southeastern France.

Macron, who appeared visibly emotional, ignored several attempts by aides to act as he defended himself against accusations that he had unreasonably supported the controversial company against the wishes of the left-leaning government he was serving at the time.

“I saw foreign business leaders – it was horrible!” he said sarcastically. “If they create jobs in France, then I’m very proud of that. You know what? I’ll do it again tomorrow and the day after.”

Macron’s remarks come amid public outrage over a trove of documents about his close ties to Uber during his tenure as economy minister, which some opposition members describe as a looming “national scandal” and potential for “collusive interests” evidence. “

Tuesday’s allegations partly dominated the first parliamentary inquiry session since last month’s election. Macron has lost an outright majority, leaving him facing more scrutiny than in his first term and political pressure from his daring far-left and far-right opponents.

“Essentially, your project is [to create] Uber’s society of workers without rights. This is a collective social suicide,” Danielle Simonette, a left-wing member of parliament, told the government in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Emmanuel Macron a ‘true ally’ as Uber enters France

The opposition’s criticism is based on internal information from Uber executives from 2013 to 2017, which was revealed on Sunday by Le Monde, The Washington Post and other outlets, suggesting Macron’s support for the company goes far beyond public perception. The extent of knowing—sometimes even conflicting with the policies of the left-leaning government he served at the time.

The documents are part of Uber Files, a treasure trove of more than 124,000 internal records obtained by the Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the Washington-based nonprofit newsroom and dozens of other news organizations around the world.

On Monday, former Uber lobbyist Mark MacGann publicly identified himself as the source of the documents. The Post and other project partners have previously agreed to keep his identity private.

According to the documents, Uber managers and lobbyists believe Macron is willing to back them by pushing regulators to be “less conservative” in interpreting the rules limiting the company’s operations and by trying to loosen rules that hinder the company’s expansion in France. At times, even Uber is surprised at the level of his support, internal communications show.

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

But the documents could pose troubling questions for Macron and his supporters.

Uber seeks ‘strategic investors’ in foreign media to win government favor

Although the documents ended in 2017, the year Macron was elected president, they are directly related to how he has tried to implement his agenda since then.

Macron, who was re-elected in April, has sought to liberalize the French economy — which, according to his critics, involves silencing anyone who raises concerns about the social impact of his moves.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has often complained about the “Uberization” of French society, an umbrella term used to describe ride-hailing and home delivery services, has slammed Macron’s criticism of an industry he believes has disrupted support for workers’ rights. Melenchon is now the public face of the largest opposition bloc in the lower house of parliament, where a possible investigation is expected.

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

Mathilde Parnot, the coalition’s leader in parliament, said Macron had helped Uber “plunder the country” and criticized the president for acting as “a lobbyist for American multinationals to permanently deregulate labor laws.”

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