Monday 4 March marks one of the last scheduled trilogue meeting between the EU institutions to decide on a final text for a whistleblower protection directive. Concerns have been growing that the text under discussion may diverge significantly from the world-class proposal approved by the European Parliament at the end of last year.
In a last push to remind the Council, Commission and Parliament that a worthwhile European whistleblower directive has to be one that fulfills the promise of that earlier text, trade unions and civil society organisations handed over more than two hundred and eighty thousand signatures gathered in two petitions just before the trilogue meeting.
A wemove.eu petition organised by Eurocadres contained 100,000 signatures and a further 180,000 signatures were gathered by the Voices of Justice coalition. Both groups of petition signatures were handed over to MEP Virginie Rozière, who is representing the Parliament in the trilogue negotiations.
The Parliament’s position on reporting channels is facing determined opposition from both the Council and the Commission. The Commission and Council position is to offer protection only when whistleblowers first use a dedicated reporting channel inside the company – so-called mandatory internal reporting. This comes in spite of the fact that several EU member states already have systems that allow whistleblowers the discretion to report to external regulators or law enforcement first, without fear of retaliation.
Rozière, who received the petition signatures on behalf of the European Parliament, has been clear that an insistence on mandatory internal reporting has the potential to derail the entire exercise, recently telling Politico that “if the Council persists, either the negotiations will fail or everyone will denounce a cosmetic text… Trade unions and NGOs fighting corruption would rather have no text at all than mandatory internal reporting, which would leave whistleblowers worse off.”
Last month, Blueprint for Free Speech and more than fifty other civil society organisations signed an open letter addressed to the European institutions endorsing the European Parliament’s position on reporting channels and explaining why doing otherwise would be counterproductive:
“It is right that organisations across all sectors are encouraged to take steps that make it easier and safer for those who work with them to report concerns, but it is essential that competent regulatory and law enforcement authorities have access to the information they need to fulfil their mandates.
“By making it mandatory to report to the employer first – and obligatory to use the channel employers are required to set up with only risky and uncertain exceptions – the directive unwittingly builds in information control systems that will both hamper internal good management and make certain responsible disclosures to competent authorities illegal.”
Blueprint for Free Speech also participated in the petition handover, representing the Voices of Justice coalition, which includes partner organisations Riparte il Futuro and FIBGAR.
Veronika Nad said:
“This is a one time opportunity for Europe to establish good minimum standards in protecting whistleblowers. Approving a Directive providing for mandatory internal reporting would weaken the rule of law in a time when Europe most needs it. This is why a “poor” directive would be rather unsettling.
“We have worked so much to reach this point that it has been quite disconcerting for us to see Commission and Council still maintaining the mandatory internal reporting provision. It simply makes no sense”