The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) welcomes the vote of the EU Legal Affairs Committee for an EU-wide protection and support for whistleblowers. Today, Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee MEPs approved draft legislation to guarantee that whistleblowers in the EU can report breaches of EU law in the area of tax evasion, corruption, environmental protection and public health and safety, without fear of retaliation or intimidation. MEPs agreed that the same protection measures must also apply to those assisting the reporting person, including journalists. The text was adopted by 22 votes to none against, with 1 abstention.
Proposals to set up safe mechanisms for reporting breaches were adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee. To make sure that potential whistleblowers feel safe and are aware of reporting channels, MEPs agreed that:
- member states would be requested to ensure that private and public sectors put in place adequate internal and external reporting channels;
- reporting avenues should ensure that the reporting person is notified that their report has been received within a week, while follow-up on the report should be received no later than two months after the report was received;
- it should be up to the reporting person to choose the most appropriate channel to report, whether internal or external, depending on circumstances;
- conditions for public reporting is softened.
The JURI committee also voted in a favour of:
- Extending the list of areas covered to include working conditions and workers’ rights issues
- Extending the protection to persons assisting whistleblowers in the reporting process in a work-related context
- Adding a non-regression clause, in order not to reduce the general level of protection already afforded under national laws
The adopted proposal includes safeguards against retaliations. Reprisal is explicitly prohibited and member states would have to take necessary safeguards against retaliation towards whistleblowers. MEPs also urge member states to provide information and advice free of charge as well as legal, financial and psychological support.
Rapporteur Virginie Rozière (S&D) said: “Following recent big scandals, such as Luxleaks, and the great difficulties faced by whistleblowers in Europe, this Directive protects individuals speaking out for the public good much better than before. Parliament has introduced significant improvements to the Commission’s text. The creation of a single and easily identifiable public authority in each Member State, which will provide free of charge confidential advice to those who intend to blow or have blown the whistle, together with legal and financial assistance, are major steps to make sure that we efficiently protect free speech”.
“We welcome the decision of JURI Committee to extend the scope of proposed legislation to working conditions, public health and safety, and to strengthen the role of trade unions. We also welcome the efforts to guarantee a robust protection for persons choosing to turn directly to the media to report unlawful or wrongful acts. That was the main message of our open letter to European institutions: public reporting must be a safe option for whistleblowers,” reacted Ricardo Gutiérrez, EFJ General Secretary.
Legal Affairs Committee MEPs also decided today to enter into negotiations with EU member states and the European Commission. Together with ETUC, EPSU, Transparency International, Eurocadres, WIN, EBU, ENPA, EMMA and NME, the EFJ will closely follow the upcoming trilogue negotiations on this issue.
Picture credit: Eurocadres.