Juncker promises EU law to protect whistleblowers

Juncker said the plans for whistleblower protection would be announced in the coming months. [European Parliament]

At his hearing with MEPs investigating the Panama Papers scandal on Tuesday (30 May), the European Commission president promised to present a bill to improve and harmonise the protection of whistleblowers across the EU, a subject on which the block is divided. EURACTIV France reports.

Whistleblower protection is on the Commission’s radar. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promised rapid progress on the subject when he appeared before MEPs on Tuesday to give evidence on his role in developing Luxembourg’s tax evasion industry.

“The Commission is working on a proposal to better protect whistleblowers and you will hear more about this in the months to come,” he said.

MEPs grill Juncker over LuxLeaks: ‘You turned from Saul to Paul’

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker admitted on Tuesday (30 May) that he overlooked certain effects of Luxembourg’s tax policy during his tenure as prime minister of the tiny member state.

Scandals

In recent years, whistleblowers have brought to light successive scandals involving industrial-scale tax evasion. In the case of the Panama Papers, these remained anonymous, while in the case of Luxleaks, their identities were known and they were pursued and prosecuted by the state.

In both cases, the information leaked to newspapers allowed considerable progress to be made in the fight against tax evasion and unfair competition in Europe.

Greens slam Commission for blocking Panama Papers probe

MEPs from the Greens/EFA group voiced frustration today (2 February) with being blocked in their investigation of the Panama Papers and on the ways in which money laundering and tax evasion are made possible in the European Union.

Disparities between member states’ rules governing whistleblower protection mean some are left with no protection at all. Antoine Deltour and Raphaël Halet, the whistleblowers behind the Luxleaks revelations, are a prime example. They are accused of having leaked thousands of documents regarding the tax practices of big multinationals based in the Grand Duchy.

Parliament shuns committee of inquiry into Luxleaks

The all-powerful Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament decided on Thursday (5 February) that there would be no committee of inquiry into the Luxleaks scandal, giving it less clout in ongoing investigations of tax avoidance at the European level. EURACTIV France reports

In March this year, Luxembourg’s appeal court handed Deltour a six-month suspended  prison sentence and a €1,500 fine for document theft, while Halet received a €1,000 fine.

Public consultation

The Commission had already begun mulling a European framework for whistleblower protection by early March, launching a public consultation which closed on Monday (29 May).

Commission calls for input on whistleblower protection

The European Commission launched a consultation today (3 March) on the protection of whistleblowers, after MEPs called for EU-wide legislation in February.

This consultation followed repeated calls from MEPs for heightened protection, after the subject was broached in law for the first time in the EU’s trade secrets directive.

EU lawmakers in February backed a non-binding resolution calling for mechanisms to protect whistleblowers in companies, public institutions and non-profit organisations. They also proposed the establishment of an independent European body to support and advise whistleblowers.

The Trade Secrets Directive: What it does – and does not – mean

In the three years it was debated in the European Parliament, the recently-adopted Trade Secrets Directive generated no small amount of controversy and myths. EURACTIV France attempts to separate fact from fiction.

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