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First EU whistleblower law 'to protect interests of citizens'

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First EU whistleblower law 'to protect interests of citizens'

Image © European Union - source EP

(STRASBOURG) - EU negotiators reached an agreement Tuesday on rules to protect whistleblowers, with a new system to protect and encourage reporting of breaches of EU law in a range of areas including tax fraud and public procurement.

Whistle-blower protection is currently fragmented or only partial across member states, with only 10 EU countries (France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden and UK) providing comprehensive legal protection. In the remaining countries, protection is only partial or applies to specific sectors or categories of employee.

A study carried out for the Commission in 2017 estimated the loss of potential benefits due to a lack of whistle-blower protection, in public procurement alone, to be in the range of €5.8 to €9.6 billion each year for the EU as a whole.

The new rules cover a wide reach of areas of EU law, including anti-money laundering and corporate taxation, data protection, protection of the Union's financial interests, food and product safety and environmental protection and nuclear safety. Moreover, Member States are free to extend these rules to other areas. The Commission encourages them to establish comprehensive frameworks for whistleblower protection based on the same principles.

  • Clear reporting procedures and obligations for employers: the new rules will establish a system of safe channels for reporting both within an organisation and to public authorities.
  • Safe reporting channels: whistleblowers are encouraged to report first internally, if the breach they want to reveal can be effectively addressed within their organisation and where they do not risk retaliation. They may also report directly to the competent authorities as they see fit, in light of the circumstances of the case. In addition, if no appropriate action is taken after reporting to the authorities or in case of imminent or manifest danger to the public interest or where reporting to the authorities would not work, for instance because the authorities are in collusion with the perpetrator of the crime, whistleblowers may make a public disclosure including to the media. This will protect whistleblowers when they act as sources for investigative journalism.
  • Prevention of retaliation and effective protection: The rules will protect whistleblowers against dismissal, demotion and other forms of retaliation. They will also require from national authorities that they inform citizens about whistleblowing procedures and protection available. Whistleblowers will also be protected in judicial proceedings.

The provisional agreement now needs to be formally approved by both the European Parliament and the Council. The directive will enter into force twenty days after being published in the EU Official Journal.

Further information, European Parliament

Procedure file

Protection of whistle-blowers at EU level (EP - at a glance, October 2017)


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