On April 16, the European Parliament voted(1) in favor of adopting new European Union (“EU”) wide standards to protect whistle-blowers. The standards are designed to protect whistle-blowers that reveal breaches of EU law in areas of public procurement, financial services and tax, money laundering, product and transport safety, protection of the environment, food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, nuclear safety, public health, security of network and information systems, competition, consumer and data protection, fraud, corruption and any other illegal activity affecting the use of Union expenditures.
The new rules allow whistle-blowers to disclose information either internally to the responsible legal entity, or national authorities, as well as any relevant EU institutions, bodies, offices, and agencies. The law prohibits reprisals and includes safeguards preventing the whistle-blower from being suspended, demoted or from facing other types of retaliation.
“Recent scandals such as LuxLeaks, Panama Papers and Football leaks have helped to shine a light on the great precariousness that whistle-blowers suffer today. On the eve of European elections, Parliament has come together to send a strong signal that it has heard the concerns of its citizens, and pushed for robust rules guaranteeing their safety and that of those persons who choose to speak out.” - Virginie Roziere (S&D, FR)
Some Adopted Text
“Persons who work for a public or private organisation or are in contact with it in the context of their work-related activities are often the first to know about threats or harm to the public interest which arise in this context. By ‘blowing the whistle’ they play a key role in exposing and preventing breaches of the law that are harmful to the public interest and in safeguarding the welfare of society. However, potential whistleblowers are often discouraged from reporting their concerns or suspicions for fear of retaliation. In this context, the importance of providing balanced and effective whistleblower protection is increasingly acknowledged both at European and international level.”(2)
“To enjoy protection, the reporting persons should reasonably believe, in light of the circumstances and the information available to them at the time of the reporting, that the matters reported by them are true. This is an essential safeguard against malicious and frivolous or abusive reports, ensuring that those who, at the time of the reporting, deliberately and knowingly reported wrong or misleading information do not enjoy protection. At the same time, it ensures that protection is not lost where the reporting person made an inaccurate report in honest error. In a similar vein, reporting persons should be entitled to protection under this Directive if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the information reported falls within its scope. The motives of the reporting person in making the report should be irrelevant as to whether or not they should receive protection.”(2)
EU ministers now need to approve the law. Once approved, member states will have two years to come into compliance with the law.
(1) European Parliament News: “Protecting whistle-blowers: new EU-wide rules approved” - April 16, 2019
(2) European Parliament Text of Law: “Protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law”
(3) European Parliament News: “EU-wide protection and support for whistle-blowers” - November 20, 2018