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4th Apr 2020

Seven out of nine EU bodies lack internal whistleblower rules

  • The European Parliament says it will soon adopt internal whistleblowing rules (Photo: European Union 2014)

The European Parliament and the Council, representing member states, have yet to update whistleblower rules despite obligations requiring them to do so.

The rules are meant to encourage staff to speak up if they witness serious misconduct or any other wrongdoings and then shield them from possible retaliation by colleagues and others.

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Only the European Commission and the European Court of Auditors have complied with the January 2014 obligation to have the revised rules put in place, said European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly on Monday (2 March).

“So far, only two of the nine institutions in question have adopted rules of the kind required,” noted the ombudsman.

O'Reilly last summer had launched an inquiry into which EU bodies had put in place new rules.

Her probe looked at the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Auditors, the European External Action Service, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, and the European Data Protection Supervisor.

The court of auditors has gone a step further by applying the same rules to people who don't directly work there such as contractors or companies involved in things like procurement.

The council, for its part, told this website last summer that it already draws on a 2004 EU staff regulation that allows officials to report possible illegal activities either within the institution or by informing the EU’s anti-fraud official, Olaf.

A letter sent to O’Reilly by the council’s general-secretariat last October said it had issued a “staff note” in 2006 on whistleblowing procedures.

But the new January obligation requires them, as well as all other institutions, to put in place an extra set of internal rules on how to handle complaints made by staff watchdogs.

A contact at the Council on Monday said that the draft internal decision setting up the new rules is being finalised and will be adopted shortly.

The European Parliament also says it is in the process of adopting the whistleblower rules and that a draft text is currently be reviewed by its legal services.

“The expectation is that they will very shortly enter into force,” Jaume Duch, the parliament’s spokesperson told this website in an email.

All nine of the bodies are required to set up the new rules.

O’Reilly, who revealed the inter-institutional discrepancy on Monday, said she was disappointed at the lack of progress by the remaining seven.

"The public needs to know that the EU institutions welcome whistleblowing and protect whistleblowers against retaliation to make sure that serious misconduct or wrongdoing in the EU administration are brought to light,” she said in a statement.

Guidelines, adopted by O’Reilly at her own institution last summer, include banning any form of retaliation against a whistleblower.

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