Facebook’s aggressive, uncompromising lobbying killed Zeewolde data center
Meta, Facebook's parent company, fueled political resistance against its construction plans for a massive data center in Zeewolde with its aggressive lobbying in The Hague. The Dutch lobbyist of the American tech company sparked resentment among officials by constantly insisting on preferential treatment, and refusing to adapt the construction 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 involved people and analyzed hundreds of internal documents and emails it received by appealing to the Government Information (Public Access) Act. Meta paused its plans for the data center on Tuesday, under pressure from Dutch politicians.
Officials involved told the newspaper that the Dutch Facebook lobbyist - Edo Haveman - was "un-Dutch" and "pushy" in how he approached Ministries and involved officials and politicians. Robert Barker, a former official at the Ministry of Economic Affairs who worked on the Meta data center file, told NRC that "everyone was disturbed by the attitude of Facebook" in The Hague. "It all had to be done immediately, quickly, otherwise Facebook would withdraw investments," Barker said.
Vince Van Son, responsible for the construction of new data centers at Meta, was hardly willing to compromise on the size or technical specifications of the Zeewolde data center, people involved said to NRC.
Various stakeholders also said 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 things Rutte discussed with Facebook director Sheryl Sandberg in 2018 during the World Economic Forum in Davos.
A spokesperson for Rutte's Ministry told 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 had contact with Facebook three times from 2019 at an official level," the spokesperson said. In those contacts, "the importance of speed was pointed out, and progress was made," especially concerning "Facebook's preferred method of connection to the high-voltage grid."