European Interest

New EU-wide rules to protect whistleblowers

The European Commission on April 23 proposed new legislation aimed at strengthening whistleblower protection across the EU.

Recent scandals such as Dieselgate, Luxleaks, the Panama Papers or the ongoing Cambridge Analytica revelations show that whistleblowers can play an important role in uncovering unlawful activities that damage the public interest and the welfare of our citizens and society, according to a Commission press release.

“Many recent scandals may never have come to light if insiders hadn’t had the courage to speak out,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans. “But those who did took enormous risks. So if we better protect whistleblowers, we can better detect and prevent harm to the public interest such as fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance or damage to people’s health and the environment.”

According to Timmermans, there should be no punishment for doing the right thing.

The Commission’s proposals also protect those who act as sources for investigative journalists, helping to ensure that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are defended in Europe.

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “The new whistleblowers’ protection rules will be a game changer. In the globalised world where the temptation to maximise profit sometimes at the expense of the law is real we need to support people who are ready to take the risk to uncover serious violations of EU law. We owe it to the honest people of Europe.”

Under the new rules that were proposed, all companies with more than 50 employees or with an annual turnover of over €10m will have to set up an internal procedure to handle whistleblowers’ reports. All state, regional administrations and municipalities with over 10,000 inhabitants will also be covered by the new law.

Currently, only 10 EU member states ensure that whistleblowers are fully protected. In the remaining countries, the protection granted is partial and only applies to specific sectors or categories of employee.

In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that Transparency International called the EU directive a “victory for whistleblowers” and “a bold step in the right direction”.

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