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Commission to send letter to former EU digital chief over Uber allegations

The European Commission will reach out to former Commission Vice President and digital agenda chief Neelie Kroes, following reports that she lobbied on behalf of ride-hailing company Uber during her “cooling-off period” after her stint as a commissioner.

“The Commission has decided to send a letter to the former Vice President Kroes for a clarification on the information presented in the media,” Commission spokesperson Balazs Ujvari said during the EU executive’s midday briefing.

Kroes was named in an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigation Journalists (ICIJ), which analyzed over 124,000 documents from Uber spanning 2013-2017. While Kroes had to observe an 18-month cooling-off period after her Commission tenure, from November 2014 until May 2016, she spoke to Dutch Cabinet members and offered to set up meetings with EU officials, the Guardian on Sunday claimed, based on the leaked documents.

It’s unclear what the Commission will ask Kroes. Ujvari said the letter is a “bilateral” document, so he couldn’t detail what was in it. A timeline for the response is uncertain as well.

The Commission is “not the type of institution that jumps [to] conclusions quickly,” Ujvari said. However, he later added, “As it says clearly in the treaty, former commissioners have a number of obligations to meet, and if necessary, there is always a role which can be played by the Court of Justice.”

Dutch S&D lawmaker Paul Tang has promised that he will file a complaint over the allegations to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Will she uphold the EU’s integrity and sanction Kroes? Or will she allow the code of conduct to become a dead letter and let Commissioners blatantly disregard the Commission’s own ethics rulings?” he questioned in a tweet.

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