A new EU-wide standard for protecting whistleblowers was approved by the European Parliament on 18 April, a move that will see the bloc extend high levels of protection via so-called “safe channels” to report breaches of security.
The new rules require that employers create secure mechanisms that give whistleblowers within their organisation the means to directly alert outside authorities, including the media under certain circumstances, and requires that the EU’s national authorities protect whistleblowers from “being punished, sacked, demoted or sued in court”.
The new legislation noted that whistleblowers play a key role in guaranteeing transparency in society and that those who engage in the leaking of information should not live in fear of being subject to physical or legal reprisals. The EU, according to the regulations, must also ensure that whistleblowers have access to free legal and medical assistance when necessary.
“This will help tackle fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance, and damage to people’s health,” said European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
Virginie Rozière, Socialists and Democrats MEP and rapporteur, suggested that cases including LuxLeaks, the Panama Papers and Football Leaks have shown the perilous situation that most whistleblowers in the bloc have to deal with.
“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 who choose to speak out”.
Former LuxLeaks whistleblower, Antoine Deltour, was given a six-month suspended sentence for exposing undercover tax schemes in Luxembourg. His sentence was later thrown out by Luxembourg’s highest court after it ruled that Deltour should have been identified as a whistleblower.
The final say is now to the European Council and the bloc’s ministers. The EU member states will have two years to achieve compliance and the Council will monitor the developments.