Legal Issues

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
eu, julia reda, whistleblowers



EU Government Looking To Expand, Standardize Whistleblower Protections

from the keeping-the-union-honest dept

Some good news is on the way for European whistleblowers, as Pirate Party member Julia Reda reports. A legal proposal to strengthen and unify whistleblower protections has been published by the European Commission. It does far more than restate existing protections. It expands them to cover the private sector and does away with some (but not all) of the barriers standing in the way of exposing fraud, abuse, and misconduct.

The proposal covers a wide variety of industries and all government entities. It also strips away one key barrier by eliminating the need for whistleblowers to justify their complaints and disclosures. All whistleblowers need is "reasonable grounds to believe" what they're reporting is true and falls under the coverage provided by the proposal.

Confidentiality is required and protections -- both from civil and criminal charges -- are part of the proposal. The proposal also suggests whistleblowers should be given police protection if called to testify in criminal cases resulting from their whistleblowing.

But it's not all good news. The Greens/EFA fact sheet [PDF] on the proposal notes a few areas need improvement. To begin with, confidentiality is supposedly guaranteed but the proposal does not allow for the possibility of anonymous reporting. In addition, whistleblowers won't be afforded protections unless they take their complaints through proper channels, no matter how badly that might turn out for the would-be whistleblower.

Julia Reda uses the example of Antoine Deltour, a PriceWaterhouseCooper employee who exposed corporate tax evasion schemes participated in by the Luxembourg government. According to the rules put in place by this proposal, Deltour would have had to take his complaints to his employer and the same government he exposed as complicit in tax evasion. There is an outlet for going directly to the press, but it hinges on post-whistleblowing fact finding, which could still result in arrests and criminal charges before everything is sorted out. This happened to Deltour, who was convicted of stealing trade secrets before a Luxembourg court declared his actions whistleblowing.

The report [PDF] backing the proposal gives several more examples of how whistleblowing has saved lives, not just public funds.

The public disclosure by Dr. Jiang Yanyong, which revealed the gravity of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus to the public in 2003, is an example of whistleblowing that potentially saved millions of lives. According to the World Health Organization the SARS outbreak led to 8,098 cases and 774 deaths.

It was an employee of Eternit, a Swiss manufacturer of roofing and panelling material, who helped launch an investigation into the lack of compliance with health and safety regulations and negligence at Eternit’s Italian manufacturing operation in 1970 and 1980s, estimated to have led to more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths of workers, their families and local residents.

Broader protections, applied consistently is the plan. And it's (mostly) a good one. Unfortunately, it's bound to run into heavy resistance on its way to becoming EU law. There's nothing in this for corrupt corporations and government agencies, both of which rely on each other to remain free of public accountability.


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  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 30 Apr 2018 @ 7:11am

    I love Julia Reda

    I love Julia Reda. She does a much better job of representing my interests than the sorry shower from the UK. She's German.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 30 Apr 2018 @ 9:12am

    "How is this target you want me to hold supposed to help?"

    But it's not all good news. The Greens/EFA fact sheet [PDF] on the proposal notes a few areas need improvement. To begin with, confidentiality is supposedly guaranteed but the proposal does not allow for the possibility of anonymous reporting. In addition, whistleblowers won't be afforded protections unless they take their complaints through proper channels, no matter how badly that might turn out for the would-be whistleblower.

    No anonymous reporting, required to go through 'proper channels'... yeah, those two alone are almost enough to torpedo any good aspects elsewhere.

    There have been plenty of stories on TD alone about how vindictive companies and agencies can be to someone who airs their dirty laundry, and far too many examples about how the 'proper channels' can be used to shut down any attempted whistleblowing due to a conflict in interest(something the example presented in the very next line highlights nicely) to let me see those as anything other than traps for the well meaning but naive.

    As such I have to disagree with the last paragraph. There absolutely is something in this for corrupt companies and government agencies: It makes it much easier to shut down whistleblowing and punish those that engage in it by requiring them to identify themselves and go through a process that can be run by the very people/groups that a whistleblower is trying to expose.

    Nice idea in general, but with those two aspects in it it strikes me as counter-productive at best.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Apr 2018 @ 9:27am

      Re: "How is this target you want me to hold supposed to help?"

      I have to agree with you. This coming from the commission is suspicious in itself. I just cannot expect anything worthwile coming from them. They have a history of false flag legislation. Corrupt they are.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 1 May 2018 @ 2:21am

        Re: Re: "How is this target you want me to hold supposed to help?"

        Don't get me started. Remember how Karel De Gucht was when ACTA got torpedoed in Parliament. This is the unelected body the Brexit brigade love to complain about (okay, fine) but they conflate it with the EU Parliament, which doesn't always go along with it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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