Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

  • Demonstrators in support of the whistleblowers and journalists who exposed the LuxLeaks scandal in 2016 (Photo: Mélanie Poulain)

The vote on Tuesday (20 November) by the European Parliament's legal affairs committee (JURI), is primarily a cause for celebration for all European's who wish for a more transparent and open Europe.

The vast majority of the amendments accepted by the committee further reinforce the European Commission's directive proposal on protecting whistleblowers, a draft which most observers readily admit was stronger than had been originally expected.

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

If this legislation is signed into law the climate for encouraging the reporting of criminal acts and breaches of public trust, in Europe, will be one of the healthiest in the world.

An important amendment is that anonymous reporting is now explicitly mentioned in the draft text.

And if someone's identity is later revealed, they will still qualify for protection. Which again, gives encouragement to potential whistleblowers to come forward.

We have worked tirelessly to ensure that internal and external reporting to regulators are recognised on the same level, so giving potential whistleblowers the choice of which route they wish to go in reporting misdeeds.

And despite fierce political opposition the conditions for reporting to the public and via journalists have been softened. A definite improvement on the commission's original proposals.

The members of our platform Whistleblowers Protection EU have long recognised that the commission's proposals on protection from retaliation were already pretty robust, but parliamentarians have managed to strengthen these measures.

The protection against retaliation has been strengthened to now include a ban on forcing whistleblowers to meet with psychiatric or medical professionals.

The changes also introduce protection of facilitators.

Help for NGOs

These are persons who assist whistleblowers, such as persons working for NGO's supporting whistleblowers, who will now be better protected when it comes to proceedings on defamation, breach of secrecy and requests for compensation from third parties.

Following the parliamentary vote whistleblowers reporting on the violation of workers' rights are now covered under the draft legislation.

This is one of the points that we at Eurocadres and the trade union movement as a whole, have been lobbying hard for.

Whistleblowers can now be represented by a trade union representative at any phase of the reporting process.

Now protection not only applies to whistleblowers but also to colleagues and third-parties who help uncover wrongdoing and criminal acts.

Good for journalists?

This is a good development, in that journalists, although not mentioned directly, will now be in the position to assist whistleblowers in bringing misconduct to the public's attention, without fear of reprisals.

So in theory we should not have to see the sorry spectacle of cases similar to LuxLeaks, ever again.

The draft directive now includes a non-regression clause, which recognises that if member states have stronger whistleblower protections provisions already in force at a national level, these have to be respected, they cannot in any way be undermined by the proposed EU legislation.

Even though the proposal around 'good faith' remains within the whistleblowers draft, it is now defined in a much more whistleblower friendly fashion.

So good faith now means the whistleblowers, at the time of reporting had 'reasonable belief' that the matters they were reporting and the information they are disclosing, were true and fell within the scope of the directive.

This is a significant improvement on earlier proposals.

The removal of the words 'malicious and abusive [reporting]', replacing these terms with less emotive and more objective term, 'demonstrated to be knowingly false', is definitely more whistleblower-friendly, in that those reporting offences would have less chance of facing lawsuits or criminal prosecutions.

While we wholeheartedly welcome the victory in JURI, we recognise that the fight goes on to trilogue and the Council.

But we must not undervalue what a massive step the European parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off.

We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Martin Jefflen is president of Eurocadres, the trade union of professionals and managers, and founding member of Whistleblowers Protection

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us