European Union to make significant step towards whistleblower protection

On October 24, supporters of whistleblower protection achieved a historic victory: In its recent plenary sitting, the European Parliament adopted the report on “Legitimate measures to protect whistle-blowers acting in the public interest when disclosing confidential information of companies and public bodies”. Of 666 voting parliamentarians, 399 voted for adoption, 101 against it. The vote was cast only days after the brutal murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Galizia, emphasizing again the necessity to establish better mechanisms to protect journalists as well as their sources.

The report, presented by the Committee on Legal Affairs under the auspices of French MEP Virginie Rozière, includes a broad number of international standards and can be seen as the most ambitious and comprehensive attempt to protect whistleblowers in the EU so far. The report foresees that:

  • the definition of a protected disclosure is based on the notion of whether an information is in the public interest, thus guaranteeing the widest possible application;
  • whistleblowers are to be protected even if they contact the media;
  • retaliators should be penalized; and
  • whistleblowers should be able to approach authorities for psychological and legal support.

With their vote, the European parliamentarians called upon the Commission to present a legislative proposal on the protection of whistleblowers as soon as possible. The Commission, however, remains reluctant: In its work programme for 2018, it merely foresees the continuation of efforts towards the protection of whistleblowers. Concrete action points are lacking.