Fear of reprisals is a very real concern for those who may be considering lifting the lid on malpractices in institutions (for example, regarding corruption or tax evasion), and this could then lead these whistle blowers to decide to not go ahead with revealing breaches that have taken place. But how big of a problem does that cause? According to a 2017 study that was carried out by the European Commission, this lack of whistle-blower protection has significant economic implications, estimating to cost the EU each year between €5.8 to €9.6 billion.
However, new EU legislation may change that.
On 20th November 2018, the Legal Affairs Committee MEPs gave their approval for draft legislation to be implemented that protects whistle-blowers in the EU from reprisals or intimidation as a result of making public various breaches in European law. The committee also agreed that these safe reporting mechanisms should also be applicable to those helping the whistle-blower, with this mostly pertaining to journalists. The draft legislation also encourages member states to provide legal, psychological and final support for those who come forward to report malpractice.
Currently, protection for whistle-blowers across member states in the EU is fragmented, with only 10 EU countries providing legal protection.
The proposed directive (which was adopted by 22 votes and with just one abstention) is now in the hands in the court of the Council of the European Union, who will decide as to whether or not to approve it.
- Chee, F., Guarascio, F. 2018. EU moves to protect whistleblowers, [online: here], Reuters, retrieved on 20/11/2018.
- Estimating the economic benefits of whistle-blower protection in public procurement, 2017 [online: here], European Commission, retrieved on 20/11/2018.
- Yakimova, Y., 2018. EU-wide protection and support for whistle-blowers, [online: here], European Parliament, retrieved on 20/11/2018.
Written by Mairead Finlay – Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). She has studied Translation at the University of Geneva and holds a BA in Politics and French from the University of Bristol.