25/02/2019 – Today, five well-known European whistleblowers wrote directly to EU Vice President Frans Timmerman and Commissioner Věra Jourová calling on them to ensure a new law to protect whistleblowers across all 28 Member States removes any doubt that whistleblowers are protected for going directly to the competent authorities.
Last year, Timmermans and Jourová proudly presented the Commission draft stating:
“Many recent scandals may never have come to light if insiders hadn’t had the courage to speak out. But those who did took enormous risks… There should be no punishment for doing the right thing [and] today’s proposals also protect those who act as sources for investigative journalists, helping to ensure that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are defended in Europe.”
The whistleblowers also sent their letter to the European Council representing state parties in the negotiations on a new EU law. The Council’s position not only rejects decades-long, hard won protections for whistleblowers in Europe (see Ireland for instance) but seems determined to turn a law that should be designed to ensure the free flow of information for the responsible exercise of institutional authority, into an information control system to protect the reputation of employers.
If the EU does not make it clear that people who come across wrongdoing through their work are able to report directly to the authorities without worrying they will get in trouble for doing so, Europe will have failed to build on international best practice consensus on what actually makes a difference! People will either stay silent or do what they have always done when they do not trust the system to respond properly, leak the information anonymously.
We know how to write good laws that give whistleblowers a fighting chance. But for some reason, the Commission and the Council have ignored the expertise of the lawyers and practitioners who have worked years in the field. It is time the EU listened to the whistleblowers! These are the people who are the true experts. They know first hand the trials and tribulations that can befall those who speak truth to power.
If the Council and the Commission listens to the whistleblowers and follows the lead of the European Parliament and provides strong protections no matter which channel an individual decides they must use to get the information to those who will heed it and act, the EU will indeed have strengthened democracy in Europe ahead of the elections in May 2019!!