Supporting People who Speak Out

Europe breaks new ground on whistleblower protection

In tough negotiations that ended in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the European Parliament and EU Council have agreed on a new EU Directive to protect whistleblowers across the Union. The text should now be formally adopted before the EU elections in May.

We have documented how current protections for whistleblowers vary greatly across the EU. Some countries in the Union still offer next to no reassurance for employees and others who try to report illegality or other wrong doing. This new EU legislation will change that.

Today’s news comes after several years of campaigning from MEPs, civil society and whistleblowers themselves. In the past few weeks, NGOs, unions, international organisations and concerned citizens have really kept the pressure on as negotiations reached their critical stage. This included intense advocacy for whistleblowers’ right to report directly to public authority, in opposition to EU Commission and Council’s initial stance. Securing this right for all European whistleblowers must be seen as an important step forward in democracy and rule of law across the Union.

UN Special Rapporteurs called on the EU negotiators to pay heed to freedom of expression issues. Over 80 NGOs called on the European Council not to restrict those whistleblowers who want to speak to law enforcement or an external regulator. A massive 280,000 signatures from two petitions were handed in to the EU institutions during negotiations – something that was specifically mentioned during today’s press conference from MEPs Virginie Roziere, Pascal Durand and Jean-Marie Cavada in the European Parliament.

“At one point during negotiations, Virginie arrived with a large trove of documents – petitions that had been signed. And we all said, well this means it’s up to you to fulfil your responsibilities to these petitioners.” Jean-Marie Cavada, ALDE

It’s thanks to this action – and to the example set by disclosures like LuxLeaks and the Panama Papers – that the EU has accepted the case for an ambitious, legally-binding standard that will assist whistleblowers across the Union.

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