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Uber UBER-N is seeing an influx of European taxi drivers joining its platform, an executive told Reuters, a surprising development given the history of tensions between the company and the traditional taxi industry.

In an interview, Uber’s Anabel Diaz, who oversees the company’s mobility (ridesharing) business in EMEA, said business is strong in Europe despite lingering uncertainty about gig economy labour rules.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa “are growing fairly nicely with numbers that go from 10 per cent to more than 50 per cent growth in some of our geographies,” she said.

Uber’s biggest European markets are Britain, France, Germany and Spain.

These have “very solid business performance with a lot of innovation, including development of our taxi solution in all of those countries,” she said.

Uber says European taxi drivers’ usage of the app has doubled in the year ended April 30, from 5 per cent to 10 per cent of all rides. Taxi drivers who use the app consider it a supplement to their curbside hailing business. All Uber trips must be booked online.

Conflict between taxis and Uber has lessened due to rules requiring private Uber drivers to have a commercial license.

Diaz said the company had initially struggled with staffing after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But right now drivers are back on the platform in all-time high numbers, frankly globally, and that’s resulting in better service levels,” she said.

Uber reports only group-level figures for its traditional ridesharing business and for its delivery service (Uber Eats) – each account for roughly half of sales. Europe accounted for $2.1-billion in group revenues in the three months ended March 31, about 24 per cent of the company’s total, making it the company’s largest market outside the U.S.

Rules over when gig workers must be considered employees remain in flux in Europe, with different models in place in Spain, Germany and Britain. The E.U. countries will try to agree compromise rules at a meeting of the European Council in June.

Uber argues its drivers should be contractors. But “the reality is we will adapt …(and) business will find a way forward,” regardless, Diaz said.

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