Many EU countries to miss whistleblower law deadline


With just two weeks of an important deadline, at least seven European countries, including Germany and Italy, will likely fail to pass a new whistleblower law to comply with new EU rules.

An EU directive on whistleblower protection was adopted in October 2019, giving the 27 member countries more than two years to pass new law before the December 17 deadline. A large majority of countries have adopted a last-minute approach to drafting and debating legislative proposals. Only one country – Denmark – has passed a law so far, and less than 10 countries have scheduled parliamentary hearings.

The seven countries that will almost certainly miss the deadline are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Italy and Romania, according to a survey of MPs and justice ministries by the European Center for the Rights of Whistleblowers and the Whistleblower International. Officials in several countries have not provided any information on their legislative progress, notably in Austria, Croatia and Hungary.

It may not be a coincidence that six of these ten countries do not have existing whistleblower laws, meaning they have had no official practice for receiving reports and complaints of retaliation from witnesses in the workplace. Parliamentarians and officials from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Romania recently told the European Center that they did not have sufficient knowledge or experience to put in place a system to protect launchers. alert. Political will, they acknowledged, is also lacking.

“The state of transposition and processes in Member States does not look very promising, and it may be years before there is harmonized whistleblower protection in the EU,” said Theo Nyreröd, an anti-corruption expert and whistleblower affiliated with Brunel Law School in London.

Until a country passes a new law, its citizens will not enjoy full legal protection. Many media have falsely reported that Europeans are already protected by the directive, and many people have called on whistleblower support organizations in Europe with the misconception that they are safe from reprisals.

“As whistleblowers are essential in detecting fraud and corruption,” said Nyreröd, “this also means that many forms of wrongdoing will go undetected.”

A review of proposed laws by 10 EU countries leaves little hope that the measures will provide strong free speech rights for employees. None of them include meaningful or specific mechanisms to protect employees from retaliation or compensate them for lost wages and other damages. The proposals are virtually silent on how an employee can seek and obtain whistleblower protection or status.

Passed on June 24, the “Danish Whistleblower Protection Act” includes no mechanism to protect employees against retaliation, no system for victimized employees to be reinstated or compensated, and no definition of loss or damage. In addition, the law allows employers to fire a whistleblower if it is “unreasonable” to continue the employment relationship. This means that managers can label an employee a “management problem” and fire the person with impunity.

The European Commission has a range of tools to force member countries to comply with EU rules. Last July, for example, the Commission launched infringement proceedings against Hungary and Poland over countries’ policies towards LGBTIQ people. The Commission said it would use “all the instruments at its disposal” to enforce Article 2 of the EU Treaty, which protects democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

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