The Council of Member States adopted on Friday a common negotiating position on the protection of whistleblowers. Only Poland and Ireland did not want to join the large majority in favour. The directive should give whistleblowers like Antoine Deltour EU-wide protection from retaliation for blowing the whistle on scandals such as LuxLeaks. Almost 3 years ago we Greens in the European Parliament had started to pressure for EU-wide protection standards by publishing our own draft directive. Almost a year ago, the Commission reacted with its official draft directive. The Council’s Green Light clears the way for trilogue negotiations with Parliament and the Commission. The presidency intends to invite to a first meeting this Tuesday, 29 January. The aim is to reach an agreement within the next four weeks, in time for the European elections.
In terms of content, the Council supports a three-tier procedure proposed by the Commission as a precondition for the protection of whistleblowers. Whistleblowers must first turn to their company’s or authority’s internal channels. If this does not help, whistleblowers can engage public authorities. Only in the third step can whistleblowers publish abuses without losing the protection of the new minimum standards of the directive. In Parliament’s position, the Socialist rapporteur and the Greens had won the day calling for better protection for whistleblowers and thus for the common good. The European Parliament wants to allow whistleblowers to choose how they sound the alarm. The European Parliament has also strengthened the possibility of anonymous reporting. We have also deleted the terminology on sanctions for “malicious” or “abusive” reports that could discourage potential whistleblowers from reporting.
Sven Giegold, Green/EFA MEP and the European Parliament’s rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions, says:
“The green light for negotiations in the Council is a major breakthrough towards a strong protection of whistleblowers. After years of pressure from Greens and NGOs, the protection of whistleblowers is finally within reach. It is high time to protect whistleblowers, because they strengthen the rule of law. It helps the climate, health and justice to protect whistleblowers from reprisals.
The European Commission and the Council of member states must offer legal security to whistleblowers in the negotiations. It is unacceptable that Commission and the Council want to make legal protection for whistleblowers dependent on a months long journey through internal and official bodies. Whistleblowers must be able to turn directly to the press and the public without losing their right to protection from persecution. Member States must listen to their own competition authorities who warn that otherwise the Directive will create new obstacles for whistleblowers rather than much-needed legal certainty”.
EU Commission proposal for a Directive on the protection of whistleblowers (23 April 2018): https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:52018PC0218
Details of the JURI vote for Parliament’s position (20 November 2018): https://sven-giegold.de/major-progress-for-whistleblower-rights-and-protection/
Green Draft Whistleblower Directive (4 May 2016): https://www.greens-efa.eu/en/article/whistle-blowers-directive/