Wednesday

27th Oct 2021

EU on path towards whistleblower protection

  • Howard Wilkinson, whistleblower behind Danske Bank, was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement (Photo: danskebank.com)

EU-wide rules on protecting whistleblowers are a step closer to reality following a political agreement between EU states and the European Parliament.

Although the final text of the agreement has yet to be published, the deal reached on Monday (11 March) marks a possible turning point in protecting whistleblowers from reprisals and abuse.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

French socialist MEP Virginie Roziere, who helped negotiate the latest deal, told reporters in Strasbourg that the text "forms a remarkably robust basis for the European Union to protect whistleblowers."

The current patchwork of national laws on whistleblower protection has often complicated efforts to protect people who revealed damaging information. Some EU states like Cyprus currently have very weak or no such laws.

The latest plan, an EU-directive, aims to create a single legal basis for all EU states to build upon, in the hopes that whistleblowers will not be legally hounded in the courts.

"We are moving in the direction of having a single competent authority to protect whistleblowers at the EU level," added Roziere.

French liberal MEP Jean-Marie Cavada, who spearheaded the rules on behalf of the European parliament, said both France and Germany had mounted resistance.

"I tried to explain to the French government, that was reticent, that their position could not hold water," he said. "It would appear that we managed to win the day."

The Brussels-branch of Transparency International EU, an NGO, hailed the latest deal as a mould-breaking piece of legislation.

"It is quite an accomplishment that negotiations between the institutions have come to a positive end," Nick Aiossa, senior policy officer at Transparency International EU, said in a statement.

The latest development comes after whistleblowers like Antoine Deltour, who helped expose how Luxembourg helped large companies cut their global tax bills in late 2014, faced possible jail sentences.

He told EUobserver in 2017 that his legal bills at that time had topped €60,000, on top of other costs to his personal life.

"I think a very long and costly court case is in itself dissuasive to some potential whistleblowers," he pointed out.

More recently, Howard Wilkinson, who blew the whistle last year on money laundering through the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, said he had been gagged from revealing the full damage.

The Danish bank had funnelled some €200bn of suspicious money, mostly from Russia, between 2007 and 2015.

A press statement from the European parliament says the text covers breaches of EU law dealing with tax fraud, money laundering, public procurement, product and transport safety, environmental protection, public health, consumer protection, and data protection.

It also says the rules will entitle whistleblowers to report breaches internally, to national authorities, or go public.

It also bans others from retaliating or intimidating those that do come forward with damaging information.

The commission estimates up to €9.6bn, in public procurement alone throughout the EU, could be saved if whistleblower protection laws were in place.

LuxLeaks forces discussion on EU-wide protections

LuxLeak whistleblower Antoine Deltour is urging justice ministers to help put in place rules to protect people across Europe who leak confidential information for the public good.

LuxLeaks whistleblower Deltour acquitted

The court confirmed a sentence of €1,000 fine for Deltour's fellow leaker Raphael Halet, raising pressure on the European Commission to come forward with proposals to protect whistleblowers.

Interview

Bulgarian 'EU passports' whistleblower wants justice

Katya Mateva, a former director in Bulgaria's ministry of justice turned whistleblower, says high-ranking politicians behind a scam leading to Bulgarian citizenship are likely to go unpunished.

MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower

Ana Gomes, a socialist MEP from Portugal, has accused national authorities of erring on the side of corruption by detaining a whistleblower who helped expose tax evasion by some of Europe's biggest football stars.

EU parliament backs whistleblower law

MEPs backed an EU law to protect whistleblowers from retaliation in both the public and private sectors. EU states will have two years to transpose the directive.

News in Brief

  1. US to add last three EU states to visa-waiver list
  2. German ministry gives thumbs up to Russian pipeline
  3. EU regulator foresees endless battles with Facebook
  4. UK fears three migrants drowned in Channel
  5. Israel joins EU science scheme, despite Palestine clause
  6. Upcoming flu season 'could be severe', EU agency warns
  7. Ukraine wins Dutch case on Crimea gold
  8. Most Poles want Warsaw to back down in EU dispute

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Environment ministers continue dogfight on energy price hike
  2. Most lawmakers unhappy with lead MEP's asylum bill
  3. More transparency on EU media owners planned for 2022
  4. Europe's deadly border policies
  5. 'Brussels So White' needs action, not magical thinking
  6. How to break the political deadlock on migration
  7. Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action
  8. Belarus exiles in EU fear regime-linked murderers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us