The European Commission launched a consultation today (3 March) on the protection of whistleblowers, after MEPs called for EU-wide legislation in February.
“Whistleblowers can play a crucial role when it comes to fighting money laundering, fraud or corruption. We have to weigh carefully what is the best way forward and on which level we should act to better protect them,” said Vera Jourová, the Commissioner in charge of the dossier.
According to the executive, there are already strong protection mechanisms built into EU law in certain key areas, ranging from audit and money laundering rules to trade secrets, market abuse, capital requirements and other instruments regulating financial services.
But currently, whistleblower protections across Europe vary from country to country and can offer limited promise to potential whistleblowers that they will be protected should they seek to expose corruption or wrong doing.
With the launch of the consultation, the European Commission has reacted to criticism, including from trade union organisations concerned about the executive adopting a patchwork approach sector by sector, country by country.
“Experience shows how this will create too many loopholes that will put whistleblowers at risk. If the Commission continues to build on this path it would not be of questionable protection for workers and is unlikely to encourage workers to come forward. What is needed is full and comprehensive coverage,” says the European Trade Union Confederation.
Jurová insisted that the public consultation will be valuable for the Commission to make well-informed choices. This is an important issue and we have to get it right.
In February, in a non-binding resolution, MEPs adopted by 607 votes to 16, with 70 abstentions, a proposed programme that would include whistleblower protection mechanisms for companies, public bodies and non-profit organisations.
They also argued in favour setting up an independent EU body, with offices in EU member states, to help internal and external whistleblowers to use “the right channels to disclose their information on possible irregularities” affecting the EU’s financial interests.
“We have been consistently calling on the Commission to take action to protect whistleblowers, and are pleased to see this pressure is finally paying off,” said Green MEP Benedek Jávor.
“In scandal after scandal, we have seen just how important whistleblowers are in protecting democracy and the public interest. Yet as thanks for this public service, they often face prosecution,” he added.