EU-wide whistleblower protection urgently needed
During the 4th Congress, on 30 October 2017, Eurocadres adopted an emergency resolution on whistleblower protection.
Over the last two years, whistleblower protection has become an issue of increased interest. A number of cases which media have frequently reported about have drawn public attention to the fact that an effective protection for whistleblowers may have a substantial positive impact on public interest.
Protecting whistleblowers helps to encourage a culture of transparency and accountability for public and private institutions. As professionals and managers are those who are most likely to come in contact with information which needs to be disclosed, they are fighting in the first line. That is why whistleblower protection is an essential aim for Eurocadres.
At present, legislation for protecting whistleblowers in most EU member states is a patchwork of different dispositions between countries and sectors. Only a few countries offer an extensive sector-wide protection, in most others legislation is fragmented and laws have been more reactive and scandal-driven than forward looking. At the EU-level, provisions to protect whistleblowers can be found in some sectorial pieces of regulation, namely in in the finance sector.
At the same time, companies operate across national borders and employ persons from different national backgrounds. Capital and services are provided across national borders – tax evasion by moving capital from one country to another being one of the most obvious issues. European citizens (still) enjoy a freedom to work in other countries.
That is why whistleblowers should be protected on a European-wide level. There is a common interest to have a common minimum standard across the European Union and avoid that EU public interest is circumvented by using different jurisdictions.
As Eurocadres is representing the interest of over 6 million EU professionals and managers, it is well placed to promote an EU-wide standard. Whistleblowers can help to protect the environment, fight corruption, detect faulty products and can serve to protect the integrity of the common market by uncovering cartels or collusions between companies. However, this is only possible with a sound protection for those who have the courage to step up and disclose wrongdoings. For the time being still too many professionals and managers pay their courage to speak up with serious problems with their reputation, career and threats to a stable income or even their job.
Therefore, a horizontal, cross-sectoral legislation to protect whistleblowers should be enacted on a EU level. A soft-law approach through recommendations, guidelines and internal charters is not enough. The protection must cover not only employees, but also temporary agency workers, consultants and other atypical workers and must go beyond only disclosures of illegal conduct. One of the recent high-profile cases, the LuxLeaks case, is a strong reminder that merely disclosure of illegal conduct being protected would not be sufficient, as the disclosed tax rulings in that case were not seen as illegal in Luxembourg.
Eurocadres has established a strong cooperation with most party groups of the European Parliament and a number of trade unions and other civil society organisations to work with the EU Commission for an EU legislative action. A major step was taken on October 24th, when an own initiative report which calls for EU legislative action received a strong support in Parliament. And the results of the public consultation, in which Eurocadres had an important role, show that 99,4% of the respondents agreed that whistleblowers should be protected. These news are good, but still not good enough. We call for a directive, which sets a fundamental standard and is then transposed into national law by the member states.