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European Whistle-blower Directive: Draft for consultation

Starting: 18 May Ending

0 days left (ends 13 Nov)

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In a democratic society, we need to encourage and protect those who speak out and report wrong-doing or illegal behaviour. Thanks to whistle-blowers, scandals like illegal mass surveillance, industrial scale tax avoidance or the sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers have been revealed.

This is why the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament believes that there is an urgent need to enact an EU legal framework that would set out common minimum standards for the protection of whistle-blowers throughout the European Union.

We have drafted, together with legal experts, a draft EU law to protect whistle-blowers. We opened the draft up to public consultation for almost 4 months, from 16/05/15 to 12/09/2016.

We would like to thank everyone who participated for their feedback.

For technical reasons, this platform deletes the comments and votes received once you notify participants that you have edited the text in line with their recommendations. For this reason, we have not used the "change and inform users" function for the majority of the text, because we wanted to keep a record of the comments received. We have instead just edited the text directly.


protect whistle-blowers now!!


Further info

Status: Closed
Privacy: Public







Whistleblowing is one the most effective ways of preventing, uncovering and remedying wrongdoing, as demonstrated by recent scandals uncovered by whistle-blowers, such as illegal mass surveillance, industrial scale tax avoidance or the sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers. According to a recent study analysing more than 2400 cases of fraud in 114 countries, about 40 per cent of all detected fraud cases are uncovered by whistle-blowers.[1]

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Despite the fact that whistleblowing can be essential for protecting the public interest and for maintaining accountability and integrity in both the public and private sectors, whistle-blowers who speak up do so at high personal risk, and often suffer great professional and personal costs, which can include civil or criminal prosecution.

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The need to ensure legal protection and support to whistle-blowers has been acknowledged by international organisations to which all or most EU countries are parties, including the United Nations Convention against Corruption (entered into force in 2005), the Council of Europe Civil Law Convention (2002) and the Council of Europe Criminal Convention (2002). Whistleblowing is also recognised as a form of protected free speech in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

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However, recent evaluations of the status of whistle-blower protection in the EU member states – including the OECD and NGOs such as Transparency International and Blueprint for Free Speech – reveal a situation that leaves much to be desired. Where protection exists, provisions tend to be scattered across different laws, with some member states having regulated some level of protection in anti-corruption laws, others in public service laws, and again others in labour, criminal and sector-specific laws, leaving significant legal loopholes and gaps and causing potential conflicts between different laws. As a consequence, whistle-blowers across EU Member States enjoy uneven levels of protection, or in six countries, no protection at all.

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Having recognised the need to act on whistleblowing, in the past decade, the European Parliament has consistently kept calling on the European Commission to propose EU legislation on the subject.

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EU legislation on whistleblowing protection may only be adopted if there is a legal basis for such action in the Treaties, and its scope must be consistent with the chosen legal basis. To take the discussion on a possible EU legislation on whistle-blower protection to the next level, we propose a whistle-blower directive that is based on Article 4(2)(b) in conjunction with Articles 151 and 153(2)(b) TFEU, which aim at protecting working conditions.

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Noting that we see also other potential lines of legal argument to ground legislative action on whistle-blower protection, we argue that Articles 151 and 153(2)(b) TFEU provide a clear and unambiguous basis for EU legislative action to empower employees to report wrongdoing in a framework that provides legal certainty and a common minimum level of legal protection for workers throughout the Union. After all, although the hardships that whistle-blowers tend to face are multifaceted, they almost always start at the workplace.

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Legal elements of the proposal

  • The personal scope of the proposal extends to both current and former workers, including trainees and apprentices, in all sectors of activity, public or private.

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  • Protection is given also to whistle-blowers who disclose inaccurate information in honest error.

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  • Protected disclosures concern harms or threats to the public interest that have occurred, are occurring at the time of the disclosure, or are likely to occur, and can be made, alternatively or cumulatively, internally within the workplace, or externally, to the competent authorities, parliamentarians and oversight agencies, as well as to trade unions and employers’ associations, or to the public through the media, including social media, or non-governmental organisations.

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  • Requirements are set for the independent and timely investigation of whistle-blower reports, for the protection of confidentiality throughout the procedure, for the protection of the identity of whistle-blowers who disclose information anonymously, and for securing the rights of the persons implicated.

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  • Protections include exemptions from criminal proceedings related to the protected disclosure, including but not limited to prosecution for the disclosure of classified information, trade secrets or otherwise confidential information, exemptions from civil proceedings and disciplinary measures, and prohibitions of other forms of reprisal, including inter alia dismissal, demotion, withholding of promotion, coercion, intimidation, etc.

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  • The burden of proof to demonstrate that any measure taken against a whistle-blower is not related to a whistle-blower’s disclosure is on the employer.

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  • Action taken against individuals other than the person who made the protected disclosure shall also constitute prohibited reprisal, provided that any such action arises from or is related to the protected disclosure.

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  • The provisions also include a yearly reporting mechanism and the creation of an EU data base on whistleblowing.

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With this draft Directive we aim to gather broad cross-party support within the European Parliament so that this work can be used and built upon by the Commission, the only EU institution with the competence to start such a legislative initiative.

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Do you have additional text to propose? If so, please add a comment here, or send it via email to pamela.bartlettquintanilla @ europarl.europa.eu.

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Proposal for a


Establishing minimum levels of protection for whistle-blowers

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