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EU Whistleblower Directive – Germany, France, Netherlands and others must stop blocking progress

The proposed EU Whistleblower Protection Directive is supposed to have the last trilogue negotiation, between the European Commission, Council and Parliament on the 4th of March. However, progress on the file is currently being blocked by Austria, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, which threatens to derail the entire process.

Benedek Jávor, Greens/EFA spokesperson on transparency and democracy, comments:

“It’s sad to see countries like the Netherlands, Austria and France claiming to support whistleblowers at home while blocking progress at the EU-level in Brussels. The Social Democrats appear Janus-faced on the Directive with their MEPs supporting external reporting for whistleblowers, but their Justice Minister in Germany, Katarina Barley, appears to be trying to undermine the purpose of the Directive by forcing potential whistleblowers to first report wrong-doing within their own organisation. This would mean individuals will feel less able to speak out against their own employers. 

“Whistleblowers need to be able to come forward to the media and other external trusted actors, otherwise they will not feel safe or protected. It’s time for all the countries blocking whistleblower protection to see that the winds have changed and that the freedom for individuals to expose corruption, wrong doing and illegality is essential to a healthy democracy.”

The #TruthNeedsFriends Campaign

People who expose the truth nowadays are harassed, demoted, fired, or sued by employers who are desperate to silence them. Also known as “whistleblowers”, these people speak up to defend our rights, but when they say something their bosses don’t like, they suffer fierce retaliation.

The good news is that all of this could soon become a thing of the past: The European Union is on the verge of adopting a new law that would protect people who tell the truth and punish the bullies that are trying to shut them up.

But we need to make sure that the law is done right! People who tell the truth shouldn’t be punished. So please join our campaign and put pressure on your government – because the #TruthNeedsFriends.

About the #TruthNeedsFriends Campaign

We have a massive opportunity to end the fear, silence, loneliness and bullying that some people suffer from just for telling the truth. The European Union should soon adopt new legislation that will change the lives of people who reveal the truth about illegalities, corrupt practices and other dodgy dealings – otherwise known as whistleblowers

The first of its kind, the new European Whistleblower Directive would oblige all 27* EU governments to introduce minimum standards of protection for truth-tellers.

These protections would include penalties for people that retaliate against whistleblowers or try to shut them up; an obligation for public and private bodies to set up channels for receiving reports and to keep the identity of the whistleblower confidential; and legal shields for whistleblowers so that, if for example they breach a confidentiality agreement, they would not be held liable for it.

A law like this could eventually overturn the strong social norm that we learn as we get older: If you want to stay out of trouble, keep your head down and your mouth shut. But this social norm is what allows people with no shame to “get away with it”: whether it be marketing horse meat as beef, sexually abusing the people you’re supposed to protect, or spying on everyone in the world.

Punishing people who tell the truth is not only unfair, it’s a perversion of the values that we were all brought up with as children. We cannot allow the corrupt – desperate to cover their tracks – to starting firing, demoting, harassing or suing the only person who cared enough to tell the uncomfortable truth.

We want a world in which the truth has nothing to fear.

So far, the European Parliament has been the strongest in defending the right to the truth. Now, the Parliament has to negotiate with the European Commission and the Council (where all the EU governments are represented) in order to draft the final version of the much-awaited whistleblower protection law. It’s a race against time to get it adopted before the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Unfortunately, not all governments are fully convinced about the possibility of allowing people like us, or your colleagues or family members, to break the silence. And that’s why we’re launching the #TruthNeedsFriends campaign.

The #TruthNeedsFriends campaign seeks to motivate people to stand up to the bullies of the adult world who seek to hide the truth. By sharing the video and tagging our government representatives on social media, we are letting them know that we want to defend the truth and to protect the people who speak up.

The future of whistleblowers across Europe is hanging in the balance – which is why the truth really needs a lot of friends right now. Friends like you!

Find out more about our work on whistleblowers here:




LuxLeaks upcoming court decision – quote from Benedek Jávor

Tomorrow (Thursday 23 November), the High Court in Luxembourg will rule on the appeal of the LuxLeaks whisteblowers, Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, plus journalist Edouard Perrin.

In March, Antoine Deltour was sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence and a €1,500 fine, while Raphael Halet received a €1,000 fine. They have appealed these sentences.

Journalist Edouard Perrin was originally acquitted, but the Luxembourgish authorities have appealed against this decision.

Greens/EFA transparency spokesperson Benedek Jávor comments:

“This trial shows why we need protection for whistleblowers. It is thanks to people like Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet that the public was made aware of the many tax and fraud scandals to break in recent years. Their principled and brave action has been a major factor in bringing about much needed policy changes to tackle tax fraud, money laundering and corruption. Yet despite this, the EU doesn’t have rules in place to ensure their protection. The European Commission must urgently bring forward robust proposals to make sure that future whistleblowers don’t face the same ordeal.  

 “It is deeply regrettable that the journalist Edouard Perrin is also facing renewed conviction. In light of the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, we have called for the creation of an annual prize to celebrate investigative journalism, which serves a crucial function in our democracies.”


(Image source: euractiv.com – Gwenael Piaser/Flickr)

LuxLeaks trial: Convictions show the need for urgent EU protection of whistleblowers

The verdict of the LuxLeaks whistleblowers trial has been handed down today. Both Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet have been convicted, while journalist Edouard Perrin has been acquitted, as he was in the original trial. Antoine Deltour has been sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence and a €1,500 fine, while Raphael Halet has received a €1,000 fine.

Commenting on the decision, Greens/EFA member of the committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs Molly Scott Cato said:

“Even with the reduced sentences, this decision is deeply regrettable. Without the actions of Antoine and Raphael, the secret sweetheart tax deals between large companies and the tax administration of Luxembourg would have remained secret. During our recent visit to Luxembourg with members of the Panama Papers inquiry committee we heard that they have a new policy of transparency on tax matters. It is a shame that they do not extend this policy to cover those who shine a light on the country’s murky history of tax avoidance. Antoine and Raphael have done a great service to those who seek to advance the cause of tax justice in Europe. The significant tax reforms that are now being agreed by the EU institutions would not have happened without their revelations. The LuxLeaks scandal highlights the need for tax rulings to be made public and for companies to be obliged to publicly disclose where they do business. It also draws attention to the urgency of making progress with EU-wide whistleblower protection legislation.”

Greens/EFA transparency spokesperson Benedek Jávor added:

“This verdict shows just how urgently we need a directive offering minimum level of protection for whistleblowers at European level. We have not only been calling for action for a long time but have also published our own draft proposal. We are pleased that the European Commission has launched a consultation, but this must be followed by swift and decisive legislative action. The proposal needs to be horizontal rather than sector specific, so that no whistleblowers again have to experience the type of hounding and criminalisation that Antoine and Raphael have faced.”

Benedek Jávor talked to András Horváth a Hungarian whistleblower- exclusive video

On Monday Benedek Jávor MEP went to Luxembourg to support the whistleblowers on their trial in Luxembourg.

Benedek Jávor talked to András Horváth, a Hungarian whistleblower, who reported on the systematic tax evasion on the scale of 1000 billion forint and the Hungarian Tax Authorities’ (NAV)
attitude to turn blind eyes on multinational corporations’ tax evasion techniques.

You can see the video below (click for Enlgish subtitle).

More details on the event in Luxembourg here

Benedek Jávor calls for stronger protection of whistleblowers

Following the regrettable decision of a Luxembourg court, the protection of whistleblowers was debated on the plenary session of the European Parliament on 6 July in Strasbourg. Benedek Jávor in his speech (attended by representatives of the Council and Vice-President of the Commission Jyrki Katainen) claimed that current system is simply not enough to protect whistle-blowers; in fact, verdict such as in the case of LuxLeaks intimidate whistleblowers. The Commission needs to take steps for an effective EU-wide protecting system. People releasing information on illegal activities can face criminal charges.

Here you can watch the speeches of four Greens/EFA MEPs from the plenary debate.


Greens/EFA members believe that it is now a matter of emergency and it is crucial to act, as the recent scandals such as LuxLeaks or Panama Papers prove that whistlerblowers play an essential role in defending public interest. Since Commission has not taken any action so far, Greens/EFA MEPs have already prepared their own proposal for a new directive on protecting people providing information about corruption, tax avoidance and other cases. The existing provisions are scattered across different laws. Member States regulate protection at various levels, 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 law, others do not have any legal protection. The gaps in regulations are not efficient and harm the public interest.



Frequently asked questions about whistleblowers and whistleblower protection

Draft directive for the protection of whistle-blowers across Europe:

A Greens/EFA Transparency and Democracy initiative


  1. What are whistleblowers and why should we protect them?

In a world in which transparency is not always the norm and in which institutionalised secrecy still allows some to act against the public interest with no fear of being caught or brought to justice, whistleblowers are essential for the protection of our democracies. Several scandals that have hit the news – such as the Panama Papers, SwissLeaks, LuxLeaks, or even cases of sexual abuse in Central Africa – would have probably remained unknown without the courage of the brave men and women who chose to speak up and defend the public interest. Since there is no strong legal protection, whistleblowers often risk their careers, their reputations and their privacy. The pressures they face as a result of their disclosures, which include criminal and civil proceedings, are a clear sign that our democracies have not yet developed satisfactory legal instruments to protect those who disclose information in the public interest. Furthermore, the soon-to-be-adopted trade secrets directive has expanded protections for business’ trade secrets and hence has made even more urgent the need to ensure adequate levels of protection for whistle-blowers across the EU. Finally, wrong-doing often occurs across borders, and often negatively affects the internal market.


  1. Why action at EU level rather than national level?

Protection of whistleblowers in Europe is very uneven. 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. As a consequence, whistle-blowers across EU Member States enjoy uneven levels of protection, or in six countries[1], no protection at all.

In addition, the public interest in whistle-blower disclosures extends beyond the national level. There is a general European public interest which cannot be reduced to the sum of the particular interests of a given Member State. For example, the LuxLeaks scandal could be considered an example of this: although the authorities in Luxembourg might believe that there is a public interest in keeping their “sweetheart” tax deals secret, it is hard to argue that this public interest is the same for the other Member States, who are losing tax revenue as a result. For this reason, a collection of national pieces of legislation to protect whistle-blowers will never ensure that, within the EU, those who have the courage to disclose information of public interest are properly protected.

  1. Is the EU competent to legislate on the protection of whistleblowers?

Yes, the EU has several possibilities to provide protection to whistleblowers, as shown by the fact that European legislation already covers those who reveal sensitive public interest information when it comes to the fight against money laundering or against market abuse, so as to protect the functioning of the internal market.

In addition, articles 151 and 153(2)(b) TFEU provide a clear and unambiguous basis for EU legislative action which would empower employees to report wrongdoing by setting up a framework that provides for legal certainty and a which establishes a common minimum level of legal protection for workers throughout the Union. After all, although the hardships a whistle-blower might have to face are multifaceted, they almost always start at the workplace and have consequences on a whistle-blowers’ future career prospects too. In choosing this legal basis, we have ensured that the Directive would apply to all sectors of activity, thus covering both the public and private sectors.


  1. Who would be protected?

This directive seeks to protect all whistleblowers, defined as any worker or contractor who discloses, attempts to, or is perceived to disclose information or supporting evidence that is in the public interest or that is related to a threat or prejudice to the public interest, of which he or she has become aware in the context of his or her work-based relationship. By using a broad definition of “worker” (any person employed by an employer, including trainees, apprentices and former employees) we are able to cover a wide range of cases, including for example the case of Edward Snowden, who was a contractor for the US National Security Agency.


  1. Does the intention behind the protected disclosure matter?

As recommended by the Council of Europe and the UN, and as included in the Irish whistle-blower law, we believe that the personal intentions behind the disclosure of information are not relevant. Instead, we focus on the information itself, and on whether its exposure is in the public interest. In this way, controversies over whether or not selling the information counts as a public interest disclosure are avoided – this is relevant for example to the Swissleaks case involving Hervé Falciani who reportedly offered the information on HSBC’s clients in return for a fee. Since the information itself was beneficial to the public interest, he would be covered by this draft directive.


  1. How/to whom can the whistleblower provide the information?

According to our proposal a protected disclosure can be made by any means available to the whistleblower. By not requiring the whistleblower to go through a specific reporting channel (except for where the information concerns national security or classified material), we avoid situations in which the whistleblower should disclose information to people or organizations that already know about the potential scandal, which could create a risk that the information is never actually reported.

In the directive also include a requirement that the employer or relevant authorities must acknowledge receipt of the whistle-blowers’ alert and must inform them within 30 days of any action taken as a consequence of the disclosed information.


  1. What protection does the directive provide for whistleblowers?

Protections include exemptions from criminal proceedings related to the protected disclosure, 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.

Furthermore, the directive foresees that there the whistle-blower must be granted anonymity and confidentiality in their protected disclosure.


  1. What happens if a whistle-blower reveals trade secrets or information related to national security?

The Directive protects whistle-blowers who disclose trade secrets as well as confidential information related to national security, though a specific procedure is envisaged for the latter.

In case of an overlap or clash between the whistle-blower protection directive and the trade secrets directive, the provisions to protect whistle-blowers must be complied with. The same is true where the information relates to national security issues. Thus, protection of trade secrets may not be invoked to the detriment of the whistle-blower concerned, even if the information revealed is not actually illegal in itself. In this way we can be sure that the directive would also protect people like Antoine Deltour, currently on trial following the LuxLeaks revelations.


  1. What will you do next?

The European Parliament’s latest call for legislation to protect whistle-blowers established, in the TAXE special committee report, a deadline of June 2016 for the European Commission to react. We plan to continue to campaign so that the European Commission finally proposes legislation to protect whistle-blowers across the EU. We already have broad cross-party support on the matter, as shown by the numerous European Parliament resolutions that called on the Commission to propose specific legislation.

[1] Spain, Greece, Finland, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Portugal

Press release – Whistleblower protection Greens present draft EU law as Deltour trial continues

The Greens/EFA group in European Parliament are presenting a draft for a new EU directive on whistleblower protection. The draft directive, which has been launched coinciding with the trial of Luxembourg Leaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour, aims to provide the basis and further impetus for a proposal to this end from the European Commission. Outlining the draft directive, Green MEP and transparency spokesperson Benedek Javor said:

“The Panama Papers leak has once again underlined the essential role performed by whistleblowers in shedding light on vital information in the public interest, just as the ongoing trial of Luxembourg Leaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour has driven home the precarious situation of whistleblowers even in modern democratic states. Whistleblowers serve a crucial role in ensuring transparency and accountability and it is a scandal that they are very often hung out to dry, with no protection, once they have revealed information in the public interest.

“We believe there needs to be a basic level of protection for whistleblowers across Europe. Whistleblowers face uneven levels of protection in the EU, with no protection at all in some member states. The European Parliament has called on the EU Commission to propose EU legislation on the protection of whistleblowers on a number of occasions and there is a clear legal basis for such a framework under the EU Treaties. In the absence of an initiative to this end from the Commission, this draft directive on whistleblower protection aims to provide the basis and further impetus for such a proposal. We want to work to build a broad consensus around this legislation with a view to ensure whistleblowers can finally have a basic level of protection across Europe.”

The draft directive and a summary can be found at:http://www.greens-efa.eu/whistle-blowers-directive-15498.html

The Greens/EFA group will host a conference on whistleblower protection tomorrow in the European Parliament at which the draft directive will be outlined. More details: http://www.greens-efa.eu/the-right-to-speak-out-15199.html

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)

Whistleblower protection

It is difficult to imagine corruption without the contribution of players who have the ability to abuse resources – mostly public resources – for the purpose of generating a private; only people with some kind of power in their hands are able to act as such. In order to prevent those powerful people from misusing public money we need people to counter them. Today, we cannot talk about a serious anti-corruption policy without meaningful protection for these brave men and women.

Whistleblowers play an important role in a democracy ensuring vital information in the public interest is brought to light. The level of the extent to which legal means and guarantees that serve to protect whistleblowers as well as the level of specially protected reporting channels are shockingly uneven when it comes to the different Member States. In view of the anomalies of different regulations, the weakness of national institutions, and recent atrocities and lawsuits brought against whistleblowers, it is high time that whistleblowers were guaranteed protection minimum across Europe.

The resolution voted by the EP in March on the report on the fight against fraud has demanded the Commission to propose legislation to this end and stop stalling.

Strasbourg, 29th April 2015

Benedek Jávor MEP