The European Parliament and EU Council have agreed a pathbreaking piece of legislation that will help protect whistleblowers around Europe. The political agreement was reached in negotiations on 12 March, and is the first time that the EU will have dedicated legislation in this area.
The proposed legislation will give much greater protections for individuals who wish to come forward when they encounter corruption or illegality in the workplace and will provide both public and private sector employers with greater legal certainty around their rights and obligations.
“Today is a historic day for those wish to expose corruption and wrongdoing,” said Nick Aiossa, Senior Policy Officer at Transparency International EU. “Whistleblowers in the EU, like Howard Wilkinson, the Danske Bank whistleblower, have spent far too long facing unjust retaliation for speaking out. It is quite an accomplishment that negotiations between the institutions have come to a positive end. “While certain provisions can be strengthened, the draft legislation provides a strong foundation for potential whistleblowers to be protected under EU law. The directive affords much-needed harmonisation, as up until now, EU countries have had patchwork of protection for those who wish to expose the truth.”
Aiossa added: “Ireland, for example, already has good laws in place; however, member states such as Cyprus have practically none. We await the publication of the preliminary text in order to scrutinise it more closely. However, one of the most crucial structural issues of the directive was successfully addressed.
“We commend the EU in recognising that whistleblowers should be able to first report wrongdoing to the relevant law enforcement or regulatory authorities.”
During the negotiations, petitions demanding that whistleblowers should be granted protection if they reported wrongdoing externally first gathered over a quarter of a million signatures.
Over 80 organisations and whistleblowers themselves also sent letters to the institutions to demand a robust directive. In the coming months, both the European Council and European Parliament will have to endorse the preliminary agreement. It will then have to be transposed into national laws in member states.