Uber leaked files reveal the company's hold on Brussels Minister Pascal Smet

Uber leaked files reveal the company's hold on Brussels Minister Pascal Smet
Pascal Smet, Minister of Mobility and Public Works in the Brussels Regional Government. Credit: Belga / Laurie Dieffembacq

The Uber files investigations are having an impact on the politicians who aided the scandal-ridden company when it first set out to conquer European markets in 2014, after Uber’s former top European lobbyist, Mark MacGann, leaked data from the company to the Guardian, which shared its information with journalists around the world.

In Belgium, De Tijd, Le Soir and Knack reported that, between 2014 and 2019, Uber heavily lobbied the then Minister of Mobility and Public Works in the Brussels Regional Government, Pascal Smet, who is part of one.brussels – the Brussels regional social democratic party. Today, Smet is the current Brussels Minister for Urbanism.

The UberFiles leak has revealed how Brussels was a key target in Uber's lobbying strategy. Even before the 2014 elections that saw Pascal Smet become in charge of transport, Smet and Uber liaised many times, with Smet seemingly wanting to pave the way for Uber be exempted from regulations and gain legal status.

Uber and Pascal Smet's Chief of Cabinet, Mathias Dobbels, were frequently in touch with at least nine meetings between Smet's cabinet and Uber in six months.

However, Smet could not get his taxi plan approved as the PS – the francophone socialist party – blocked it. But what was key around these meetings was that Smet publicly condemned Uber, yet at the same time let Uber know that he was doing everything in his power to make Uber legal in Brussels.

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Uber was given first-hand information on government negotiations, directly from Smet, concerning his taxi plan. Moreover, Smet asked Uber to not respond 'too positively' to the proposed taxi plan and not to mention his name in their communications about the taxi plan.

Sexually charged messages

The leaked documents showed sexually charged WhatsApp messages between Pascal Smet and Uber lobbyist Marc MacGann, making De Tijd wonder if it wise for a minister to maintain close and potentially intimate relations with a lobbyist of an important company which concerns the minister.

Responding to De Tijd, Smet claimed that he can separate personal relations from his political work.

He does not deny wanting to make Uber legal in the capital within a clear and regulated framework. Smet maintains that the many meetings between Uber and his cabinet were a 'necessary part of the political process'.


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