Facebook’s aggressive, uncompromising lobby killed data center in Zeewolde

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, fueled political resistance against the construction plans for a huge data center in Zeewolde with its aggressive lobby in The Hague. The Dutch lobbyist of the American tech company aroused resentment among officials by constantly insisting on preferential treatment and refusing to adapt the building plans to the Dutch situation. NRC reports after reconstructing Facebook’s lobby for the data center in the Flevopolder.

The newspaper said it spoke to many stakeholders and analyzed hundreds of internal documents and emails received by invoking the Government Disclosure Act. Under pressure from Dutch politicians, Meta put a stop to the plans for the data center on Tuesday.

Concerned officials told the paper that the Dutch Facebook lobbyist – Edo Haveman – was “un-Dutch” and “pushy” in the way he approached ministries and involved officials and politicians. Robert Barker, a former official at the Ministry of Economic Affairs who contributed to the Meta data center file, told NRC in The Hague that “everyone was disturbed by Facebook’s attitude”. “It all had to happen immediately and quickly, otherwise Facebook would withdraw investments,” Barker said.

Vince Van Son, responsible for the construction of new data centers at Meta, hardly wanted to make concessions to the size or technical specifications of the data center in Zeewolde, those involved told NRC.

Various stakeholders also indicated that Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Ministry of General Affairs were involved in the Meta plans. The construction of the data center in the Netherlands was one of the issues that Rutte discussed with Facebook director Sheryl Sandberg in 2018 during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Rutte tells NRC that “as far as we have now been able to ascertain, there has been no involvement of the Prime Minister”. The Ministry of General Affairs “has been in contact with Facebook three times at official level since 2019,” the spokesperson said. In those contacts ‘the importance of speed was highlighted and progress was made’, especially on ‘Facebook’s preferred method of connecting to the high-voltage grid’.

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