ITCO Press Statement – Trade Secrets Directive hampers prevention of corruption
Today, the Trade Secrets Directive was adopted during the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The highly contested directive harms the protection of whistleblowers and hinders the work of investigative journalists and trade unionists. The ITCO intergroup regrets that the European Commission does not attribute a more prominent role to whistleblowers and investigative journalists in the struggle against corruption.
The public consultation held by the European Commission, clearly indicated that the Trade Secrets Directive lacks public support: citizens trade unions, civil society organizations and SME’s reacted negatively. Although several improvements have been made in comparison to the original proposal, the final proposal still burdens the journalist, the whistleblower or the trade unionist with the obligation to prove that he or she acted in the realm of the (restricted) freedom of expression, for the purpose of the general public interest, or as part of helping workers’ representatives in their legitimate exercise of their representative functions. These strict conditions, combined with a very broad definition of ‘trade secrets’, restrict the possibilities of whistleblowers to be acknowledged and for journalists and unionists to do their work properly.
Consequentially, disclosing information on practices that may not be illegal but are yet undesirable, such as tax avoidance, will become more easily punishable. Dennis de Jong, co-chair of the ITCO intergroup comments: ”One would think that after Luxleaks, the Panama papers and Dieselgate, in which whistleblowers or investigative journalists have played a crucial role in revealing crucial information, the Commission would do anything to stimulate the important role of whistleblowers and investigative journalists. Instead, the Commission subordinates the struggle against corruption to the interests of multinationals. Antoine Deltour, who revealed the Luxleaks scandal, is already facing criminal charges against him, and the directive will undermine his position.
Benedek Javor, ITCO bureau member adds:
“We as Greens wanted to reject the proposal or at least delay the vote until the directive can be packaged with a Whistleblower Protection Directive. Adopting a text that creates a situation where secrecy is the legal norm for companies’ internal information and transparency is the exception is clear proof of the European Commission preference of corporate interest over the public interest, as also shown most recently by the glyphosate authorization.”
(Image source: itcointergroup.eu)