In February 2017, the European Parliament adopted a resolution regarding the protection of whistleblowers as beforehand, there was no protection framework in place for them. In October 2017, the Committee on Legal Affairs adopted a report which called the European Commission to present a legislative proposal before the end of the year regarding the protection of whistleblowers. Five points or particular importance are:
- Setting a consistent definition of a whistleblower
- Protecting reports on breaches of public interest as well as unlawful acts
- Introducing clear reporting mechanisms
- Creating an EU agency specifically dedicated to advise, guidance and the collection of reports
- Extending the role of the European Ombudsman to supplement and coordinate Member States to protect whistleblowers
This report was discussed and approved during a European Parliament plenary session in late October 2017 and urged the European Commission to issue an EU-wide legislation to protect the whistleblowers. In April 2018, a Proposal for a New Directive Strengthening the Protection of Whistleblowers was announced by the European Commission.
This draft legislation was approved by MEPs later that year to guarantee that EU whistleblowers can report on EU law breaches of tax evasion, corruption, environmental issues and public health and safety.
The Legal Affairs Committee then went beyond the initial proposal to add measures including:
- Allowing whistleblowers to report straight to regulatory bodies – removing the previous three-step process
- Allowing anonymous reporting
- Allowing judges to dismiss cases against whistleblowers
- Legal Affairs MEPs agreed to have the same protection measures for those assisting in the reporting
Only 10 EU countries currently provide comprehensive legal protection to whistleblowers: France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden and the UK.
In October, the European Council formally adopted new rules on the protection of whistleblowers which will require the creation of safe reporting channels for them both in public and private organisations. The rules will also provide a high level of protection to whistleblowers against any retaliation and thus requires national authorities to adequately inform citizens and to train public officials on how to deal with it.
This legislation will formally be signed and published in the Official journal soon, giving Member states 2 years to transpose the new rules in their national law.
More information here.