Wednesday

19th Sep 2018

LuxLeaks forces discussion on EU-wide protections

  • Few member states have "comprehensive" whistleblower protection rules (Photo: Sven Graeme)

Justice ministers are meeting over lunch in Brussels on Tuesday (28 March) to discuss possible whistleblower protection rules at EU level.

But talks are likely to encounter obstacles given the broader resistance at member state level towards any meaningful rules. "The idea is to generate a discussion," noted one EU official.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Delrour: "The fate handed over to the whistleblower has a direct impact on the freedom of expression." (Photo: European Parliament)

Antoine Deltour, the Frenchman who helped uncover one of the biggest tax scandals in Europe, told EUobserver that EU-wide whistleblower rules are needed due to the varied interpretations of public interest across EU countries.

"The interests of the business circles and the financial companies are a matter of public interest for Luxembourg, while the car industry is a public interest for Germany," he said in Strasbourg on Friday (24 March) at an event hosted by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

Deltour said the wide interpretation between member states is a disadvantage for whistleblowers, who may be revealing shortcomings that affect people all over Europe.

Varied interests

"This notion of public interest can be interpreted very differently according to whether you have a European standpoint or a domestic point of view," he said.

He said EU rules are needed also to strengthen the notion of a much broader public interest.

Deltour, along with Raphael Halet, leaked documents from the Luxembourg branch of the accountancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), to French television reporter Edouard Perrin in 2011.

The documents eventually ended up being probed by dozens of media outlets who then exposed how some 340 big companies secured secret deals from Luxembourg that allowed many of them to cut their global tax bills.

Although their revelations led to stronger EU tax transparency rules, both Deltour and Halet received suspended jail sentences and fines in Luxembourg for their actions.

A Luxembourg court shortened their convictions earlier this month, with Deltour now receiving a six-month suspended jail sentence and a €1,500 fine. Halet was fined €1,000, and Perrin was acquitted.

"They acted in the public interest, and without whistleblowers like them, we would not see real effort to tackle tax dodging,” Transparency International said in a statement following the latest rulings.

Those sentences may be appealed but Deltour said the money, time, and personal costs involved are making him hesitate.

His defence expenses have so far totalled up to around €60,000, paid by a support committee.

Whistleblowers needed

"The fate handed over to the whistleblower has a direct impact on the freedom of expression because without sources journalists have a very limited power," he said.

One study in 2016 looked at 2,400 cases of fraud in over 100 countries and found that 40 percent of the detected cases came from whistleblowers.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament piled on pressure for the European Commission to adopt rules on whistleblowers.

The EU executive institution has started a public consultation on whistleblowers that should end in May.

It has also launched an impact assessment, an extensive fact-finding probe that usually precedes any legislative proposals.

"This year we are basically looking into options, doing further consultations, doing the impact assessment, and then we see what comes out of it," noted an EU commission spokesperson.

LuxLeaks whistleblowers sentenced again

PwC employees Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, who revealed how multinational companies dodged taxes through deals in Luxembourg, were given reduced sentences.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

News in Brief

  1. EU investigating BMW, Daimler and VW 'collusion'
  2. Spain wants special Gibraltar chapter in Brexit deal
  3. Italy cancels Vienna talks over South Tyrol 'dual citizenship'
  4. Britain will not accept Brexit deal with Irish Sea border
  5. Slovakia seeks witness to journalist killing
  6. Finland's Stubb considers running for EU commission job
  7. Romania ponders anti same-sex marriage referendum
  8. EU lawyers back Slovenia in Croatia border dispute

Opinion

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. Real Brexit progress needed by October, Barnier said
  2. Poland to face EU top court on rule of law
  3. Austria's EU presidency: a bridge over troubled water?
  4. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers
  5. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  6. New book: Why war is coming
  7. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  8. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us