Whistleblowers would be permitted to report wrongdoing to outside authorities before reporting to their company or agency’s internal review program, according to a provisional rule approved this week by the European Commission and member countries.
Action on the EU whistleblower directive had been stalled over the reporting issue. Several member countries, led by Germany and France, wanted to require employees to report potential crimes and fraud internally before going to regulators and law enforcement. Transparency, anti-corruption groups and their supporters believe that approach would have made it more difficult for individuals to come forward with information about wrongdoing.
“The debate has been quite lively over the course of the last few weeks,” Virginie Rozière, a French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) said in French at a press conference following the decision.
The provisional rule allows for what are called “safe reporting channels.”
Whistleblowers are encouraged to report first internally, if the breach they want to reveal can be effectively addressed within their organisation and where they do not risk retaliation. They may also report directly to the competent authorities as they see fit, in light of the circumstances of the case.
Transparency International called the provisional rule “a pathbreaking piece of legislation,” citing the case of Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson.
“Whistleblowers in the EU, like Howard Wilkinson, the Danske Bank whistleblower, have spent far too long facing unjust retaliation for speaking out. It is quite an accomplishment that negotiations between the institutions have come to a positive end,” according to a statement from Nick Aiossa of Transparency International.