The CEELI Institute launches new report: Beyond Paper Rights: Implementing Whistleblower Protections in Central and Eastern Europe

November 02, 2023
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PRAGUE, 2nd November 2023 – Central and Eastern European countries must take swift and immediate action to protect the rights of whistleblowers, a new report from the CEELI Institute recommends. “Beyond Paper Rights: Implementing Whistleblower Protections in Central and Eastern Europe,” raises concerns in Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania. “Paper shields provide no help to whistleblowers,” said Tom Devine, Legal Director at the Government Accountability Project, and an advisor on the CEELI study. “Only if these rights become accessible, workable, and actually used will the democratic promise of the European Union’s directive be realised.” In 2019, the European Union implemented protections for those who speak up about wrongdoing, through the adoption of a landmark whistleblower protections directive: Directive 2019/1937.

The EU Directive was hailed as a globally significant development for integrity and accountability. But since then, local adoption and implementation has proven challenging. Now, almost four years after the EU Directive was finalised, and two years since it was due to be transposed, the EU directive in member states remains incomplete. “Much work remains to be done,” the report concludes.

The report offers three recommendations: 1. Ongoing law reform is needed to ensure whistleblower protections meet and exceed the requirements of the EU Directive. 2. Governments should commit to establishing standalone, independent, well-funded whistleblower protection authorities, and, where such authorities already exist, governments should commit to further improving their functioning to ensure alignment with the EU Directive’s objectives. 3. Civil society should look to provide low-cost, or no-cost specialized legal advice to whistleblowers. Governments and national authorities should consider funding civil society to provide legal and non-legal support to whistleblowers and ensure civil society groups are adequately integrated into whistleblowing frameworks.

Civil society and whistleblower protection authorities should explore possibilities for cooperation and collaboration to ensure maximum impact. “The EU Directive was motivated by recognition of the importance of whistleblowers to a democratic society, concern about the mistreatment of these courageous truthtellers, and belief that a better paradigm was possible,” said Kieran Pender, an expert on whistleblower protections at the

Australian National University College of Law, and the report’s author. “The EU Directive was an important step, and the largely concluded transposition process was another,” Pender said.
“But the European Union, and the six jurisdictions considered in this report, need to continue progressing to ensure whistleblowers are protected and empowered in exposing wrongdoing and can thereby play a vital democratic role.”

“At the CEELI Institute, we believe that fostering cooperation between state authorities, civil society, and other relevant actors is crucial to safeguarding the rule of law and offering protection to whistleblowers,” said Halyna Senyk, Senior Program Advisor at the CEELI Institute.
“Our aim is to provide a forum for dialogue between different stakeholders in Europe and beyond, including the Whistleblowing International Network and the Network of European Integrity and Whistleblowing Authorities,” she said. “By promoting legal and educational exchanges, we strive for stronger whistleblower protections everywhere.”

The report was released today during a roundtable at the CEELI Institute in Prague with whistleblower protection official bodies, international experts, investigative journalists, and civil society organizations active in the field of whistleblower protection.

About the CEELI Institute The CEELI Institute is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the development and training of a global network of legal and judicial professionals committed to advancing the rule of law. Our efforts are focused on creating independent, transparent, and effective judiciaries, strengthening democratic institutions, fostering efforts to combat corruption, bridging difficult conflicts, promoting human rights, and supporting lawyers and civil society actors in repressive environments. The CEELI Institute is based at the Villa Grébovka, in Prague, a historic nineteenth-century building now renovated into a residence and conference center.

Read the full report here.