European Commission reveals proposed protections for whistleblowers

European Commission reveals proposed protections for whistleblowers

The European Commission has published its proposals for new EU-wide standards for the protection of whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law.

The proposal for a Directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law establishes safe channels for reporting both within an organisation and to public authorities.

It also protects whistleblowers against retaliation such as dismissal or demotion and requires national authorities to inform citizens and provide training for public authorities on dealing with whistleblowers.

Under the proposal, member states will be expected to introduce “effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties” for people or businesses who hinder whistleblowing or take retaliatory measures.

Penalties are also prescribed for people making “malicious or abusive reports or disclosures” as well as compensation for “persons who have suffered damage from malicious or abusive reports or disclosures”.

Announcing the move, the Commission said protection for whistleblowers across the EU is “fragmented and uneven”, with only ten member states - including Ireland - guaranteeing full protection for whistleblowers.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “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.

“So if we better protect whistleblowers, we can better detect and prevent harm to the public interest such as fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance or damage to people’s health and the environment. There should be no punishment for doing the right thing.

“In addition, 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.”

Věra Jourová, commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, added: “The new whistleblowers’ protection rules will be a game changer. In the globalised world where the temptation to maximise profit sometimes at the expense of the law is real we need to support people who are ready to take the risk to uncover serious violations of EU law. We owe it to the honest people of Europe.”

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