European parliament calls for more protection for whistleblowers

Members of European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg for a plenary session, voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday in favor of broad European protections for whistleblowers.

Approved by 607 votes in favor to 16 against, with 70 abstentions, the non-binding resolution calls for the European Commission to immediately propose an “effective and comprehensive European whistleblower protection program”.

MEPs deplored the European Commission’s failure, until this point, to deliver any legislative proposals to establish a minimum level of protection for whistleblowers who help protect the European Union against fraud.

According to the text adopted on Tuesday, the program should include whistleblower protection mechanisms for companies, public bodies and non-profit organizations.

“We may have good rules to protect whistle-blowers within the EU institutions, but at national level investigative journalists or concerned citizens still face the risk of ending up in court,” explained rapporteur Dennis de Jong (European United Left / Nordic Green Left, Netherlands).

“My report contains many proposals to harmonize the protection of whistleblowers where alleged fraud and corruption involving EU funds are at stake,” de Jong asserted.

The European Parliament advocated establishing an independent EU body, with offices in EU member states, to help whistleblowers use “the right channels to disclose their information on possible irregularities” affecting the Union’s financial interests.

European lawmakers also called for a special unit to be established within the European Parliament itself, with dedicated facilities, such as hotlines, websites and contact points, to receive information from whistle-blowers relating to the financial interests of the EU.

The unit would also advise and help protect whistle-blowers against any possible retaliatory measures, until the independent EU body would be established.

Whistleblower protection has been a controversial subject ever since American intelligence analyst Edward Snowden broke the story on the American National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program in 2013, forcing him to go into hiding, where he has advocated for whistleblowers.