Uber files: Brussels' Mobility Minister acquitted by parliamentary committee

Uber files: Brussels' Mobility Minister acquitted by parliamentary committee
Mobility Minister for the Brussels-Capital Region, Pascal Smet. Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

The Brussels Parliament concluded its hearing on the lobbying practices of Uber in the Belgian capital and has cleared Mobility Minister Pascal Smet of any wrongdoing.

He had been the subject of intense scrutiny since various international outlets released their Uber files investigation, which showed how the multinational's lobbying verged on illegality during their European expansion.

These reports revealed Smet's close contact with Uber's European lobbyist Mark MacGann between 2014 and 2017, as the company was leading a charm offensive for Brussels to liberalise its mobility laws. 

Whilst the regional minister was in favour of legalising the company's activities and stated as much to MacGann in private messages, this was not deemed to have been illegal or inappropriate by the Brussels Parliament's Uber files committee.

They had made the decision with 14 findings and 20 recommendations, having held hearings into these revelations since the start of the year. The committee acquitted Smet of any wrongdoing, declaring that "no member of the government was found to have engaged in illegal or inappropriate practices."

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They agreed with Smet's long-standing defence that his relationship with MacGann had purely been private and with no professional consequences. Reports of sexually charged messages between Smet and the lobbyist may have corroborated his claims.

Moreover, the parliamentary committee found that Brussels' traditional taxi sector had also participated in unethical lobbying practices. When the multinational arrived in the capital, some of the taxi sector had aggressively threatened Uber drivers, whilst lobbying certain politicians. 

The committee concluded by recommending that a code of conduct be established for the region's politicians and ministers to abide by, although no details have been provided on what this would entail.

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