EU mulls new rules to protect whistleblowers

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The European Commission, European Parliament, and the Member States on Tuesday in Strasbourg agreed on new rules to protect whistleblowers who report breaches of EU laws.

A statement by the European Commission said the new rules cover a wide reach of areas of EU laws, including anti-money laundering and corporate taxation, data protection, protection of the Union’s financial interests, food and product safety and environmental protection and nuclear safety.

The statement said member states are free to extend these rules to cover other areas.

The Commission also encouraged them to establish comprehensive frameworks for whistleblower protection based on the same principles.

‘Safe channels’

On clear reporting procedures and obligations for employers, the new rules will establish a system of safe channels for reporting both within an organisation and to public authorities.

Besides, safe reporting channels rule encourages whistleblowers to report first internally, if the breach they want to reveal can be effectively addressed within their organisation and where they do not risk retaliation.

They may also report directly to the competent authorities as they see fit, in light of the circumstances of the case.

This is ideal if no appropriate action is taken after reporting to the authorities, or in case of imminent or manifest danger to the public interest, or where reporting to the authorities would not work.

For instance, where the authorities are in collusion with the perpetrator of the crime, the new rule says whistleblowers may make a public disclosure, including to the media.

This will protect whistleblowers when they act as sources for investigative journalism.

To prevent retaliation and ensure effective protection, the rule says whistleblowers will be protected against dismissal, demotion and other forms of retaliation.

Protective measures

Also, the whistleblowers will also require from national authorities that they inform citizens about whistleblowing procedures and protection available. Whistleblowers will also be protected in judicial proceedings, the statement said.

Currently, only ten EU countries (France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden, and United Kingdom) have a comprehensive law protecting whistleblowers.

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WhistleB’s founders, Gunilla Hadders and Karin Henriksson, described the agreement as an endorsement of everything they have worked for since it started in 2011.

“Ever since the beginning, we have seen our company as a European provider of whistleblowing services. That means we always ensure the service is kept fully up-to-date according to the latest data security trends and laws.

“Without the very strictest level of data security, it is impossible to create trust in the whistleblowing service, and this results in our customers not receiving the whistleblowing reports that are so valuable to them. The sensitive information that comes in via a whistleblowing channel must absolutely be protected,” Mr Hadders said.

Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality in EU, Věra Jourová, said: “Dieselgate, the Panama Papers and Cambridge Analytica revelations made us realise how whistleblowers help uncover unlawful activities that damage both the public interest and our general welfare.

“We must support and protect the courageous people who bring illegal activities to light. I am happy that we have reached a balanced system that encourages employers to solve problems internally but also allows whistleblowers to turn to public authorities without fear of retaliation.”

The provisional agreement is subject to formal approval by both the European Parliament and the EU Council.

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