WIN Press release – New EU Directive on whistleblower protection

WIN URGES EU GOVERNMENTS TO TAKE NEW WHISTLEBLOWER DIRECTIVE SERIOUSLY TO STRENGTHEN PUBLIC INTEREST OVERSIGHT AND DEMOCRATIC ACCOUNTABILITY

17 APRIL 2019 – An international network of whistleblower protection NGOs calls on EU governments to adopt both the spirit and detail of the new EU whistleblower protection directive in their national legal frameworks, or risk further scandals and disasters that undermine public confidence in their ability to promote and safeguard the public interest.

Yesterday (16 April 2019), the European Parliament voted in an overwhelming majority to adopt a new law to protect European whistleblowers. The EU has raised the bar for all EU governments to lead the world in promoting gold standard protections for whistleblowers who raise concerns about wrongdoing or abusive practices that affect us all – whether in our how money is handled in financial institutions, the quality and safety of the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the trains and planes we travel on and the care of our elderly and vulnerable.

Landmark cases such as #LuxLeaks and #PanamaPapers have revealed how scandals that start in one country quickly spread to others, as the range of actors involved and the jurisdictions affected are revealed. Similarly, the European tainted-egg scandal started in the summer of 2017 in the Netherlands and Belgium and by 11 August, the European Commission announced that a total of 15 EU states, plus Switzerland and Hong Kong, were known to have received egg products contaminated by an insecticide harmful to human health.

WIN, whose NGO members advise, defend, and protect whistleblowers, has advocated for years for better legal and institutional protections in all European countries. The need for the EU to act across all 28 member states became more urgent and obvious as whistleblowers increasingly revealed serious corruption and the harm caused by wrongdoing and negligence that was no longer contained by national borders.

The EU legislation follows campaigning by WIN in a wider coalition organised by Eurocadres (association of unions) that included Transparency International Europe and journalist and press freedom organisations. The ground-breaking legislation must become national law across all EU members by May 2021.

WIN’s Executive Director and lawyer, Anna Myers, highlights the hard work of civil society, “We came together with different skill sets and missions from across Europe to advocate for stronger legal protections for whistleblowers and yesterday we got it!”

“But we also know that there has been reluctance, lack of understanding, and from our long experience in the field, often a determination to block whistleblower protection from being the progressive, democratic accountability mechanism it should be,” she said. “We still have our work cut out for us. The EU Directive is not perfect. WIN will continue to support civil society to collaborate across borders to ensure EU governments live up to both the detail and the spirit of the law.”

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EU poised to adopt Directive that will give whistleblowers a fighting chance!

12/03/2019 – TODAY the Whistleblowing International Network (WIN) welcomes the news that the EU has reached an agreement that gives European whistleblowers a fighting chance to survive when they speak up in the public interest.

After tough negotiations, the provisional agreement reached late last night in Strasbourg finally removes the hierarchy of reporting obligations that would have obliged people to report to their employer’s first or risk losing all protection against dismissal or other retaliatory actions – even if they reported sensibly to a regulator body. The Directive will set minimum standards for protection that people can rely on to shield them from retaliatory actions when they speak up about wrongdoing in their workplace, to the authorities, or to the public (via the media).

EU ConferenceThe agreement was announced by Virginie Rozière at a European Parliament Press Conference this morning.

WIN and its Members worked in coalition with unions, human rights organisations, journalist associations and other NGOs, and provided as much of its long expertise defending whistleblowers through the courts and in the public arena as it could.

During negotiations, civil society delivered petitions with 280,000 signatures that demanded that whistleblowers be granted protection if they report directly outside their employment first.

The Parliament, the Commission, the EU Council and Ministers of Justice in all 28 Member States heard consistent messages from legal experts, NGOs, unions, whistleblowers and professional associations as well. The Council of Europe (the Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights; the Head of the Secretariat for the Group of States Against Corruption); the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, David Kaye, and the OSCE Representative for Media Freedom, Harlem Desir were amongst those calling for flexible reporting channels.

Ultimately, these voices could not be ignored!

We are delighted that Virginie Rozière, MEP (S&D) and lead negotiator for the European Parliament, stood her ground. She and her colleagues fought long and hard to ensure that Europe lived up to its commitment to make it easier, not more dangerous, for whistleblowers. Germany and France, two of the strongest opponents to flexible reporting channels were not able to maintain their blocking minority in the EU Council.

Protecting whistleblowers in law and in practice is finally being recognised and understood for what it really is – democracy in action!” said Anna Myers, Executive Director of WIN. Calling the agreement a collective commitment to upholding European values and fundamental rights, Anna said, “when battles are too often won by those who want to control information for private interests, this victory for the citizen’s right to speak up in the public interest is critical”.

While we know certain provisions should have been stronger and that our work to ensure whistleblowers are supported in reality is far from over, this Directive will at last provide a shared foundation for legal protections across Europe.

Over the next few days, the text will be scrutinised and finalised. We will all need to remain vigilant but we hope that by April 2019, the European Union will have made a huge step forward by adopting a Directive to protect whistleblowers that will make a positive difference to all our lives.

WIN calls on EU Justice Ministers to support flexible reporting channels in EU Directive

BREAKING NEWS
07/03/2018 – The Executive Director and the Board of Trustees of the Whistleblowing International Network (WIN) have written an urgent open letter to the Ministers of Justice of all 28 EU Member States.

As lawyers and experts with over 40 years’ experience in the field of whistleblowing law and practice, WIN’s Executive Director and its Board know how vital it is for organisational governance and democratic accountability that reports of wrongdoing can be made directly to competent authorities first.

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If the EU adopts a directive that imposes a strict hierarchy of reporting, it will make it more dangerous for individuals to speak up, not less. This will further reinforce a dynamic of silence and resorting to anonymous leaks. Citizens need to feel empowered to challenge wrongdoing and we need organisations that welcome those who alert them to problems and act in best interests of society.  The proposed Directive will have the opposite effect.

As it stands, the EU is on the verge of adopting a whistleblower law that would make it more dangerous for individuals at work to speak up about wrongdoing than it has been so far, making it easier for corruption and abuses of power to remain unseen and unchallenged.

WIN stands resolute in its opposition to a directive that imposes mandatory internal reporting as a minimum standard and urges all those in Europe working to better protect whistleblowers to join them in their call for flexible protected disclosure channels.

Whistleblowers Call on EU to Remove Obligation to Report Internally First

BREAKING NEWS
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.EU
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.

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