Daniel Freund

11. July 2022 Transparency

EU Commissioner lobbied for Uber: system of self-regulation of lobbying rules has failed

A data leak has apparently exposed the aggressive lobbying tactics of U.S. company Uber. As reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), then-EU Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes was already lobbying for Uber during her her cooling-off period. The EU Commission had decidedly not authorized her to work for Uber during the cooling-off period. Leaked documents from Uber prove that Kroes lobbied anyway, helping with letters to her successor, with appointments at the Commission, with calls to government offices. Apparently, internal Uber emails document that Kroes’ employment was deliberately kept secret to avoid possible sanctions. After her cooling-off period ended, the lobbying job at Uber became official for Kroes. She earned about $400,000 in total.

Daniel Freund (Greens), rapporteur for an independent ethics body in the EU institutions, comments:

“The accusations against Neelie Kroes and the Uber lobbyists must be fully investigated. If the suspicions against both are substantiated, there must be harsh consequences. It is outrageous that an EU commissioner starts a lobby job without permission by the EU-Commission. The fact that the Uber lobbyists had apparently deliberately tried to cover up the matter shows: tougher sanctions and independent control are needed.”

“The Neelie Kroes case is unfortunately the next Brussels lobbying scandal. It reveals once again that the existing system of monitoring lobby rules through trust and self-regulation does not work. We need independent monitoring of lobby rules. Lobby rules must be enforced. Unfortunately, the EU Commission has been dragging its feet on an independent ethics body. The European Parliament already made a detailed proposal a year ago. So far, there is still no word from the EU Commission about their plans.”

Lobby rules must be enforced.


35,000 lobbyists are attempting to influence EU laws. Commissioners switch position into the private sector. MPs work as lobbyists on a part-time basis. From my time at Transparency International I know that the EU is still better than the member states in many respects.  However, there is also a need for far more transparency in the EU.