In April 2019, the European Parliament passed a landmark Whistleblowing Directive instructing European Union (EU) countries to enact greater protections by shielding whistleblowers from retaliation and creating “safe channels” to report violations of the law. All EU states are required to transpose this Directive into their national law by December 17, 2021.
However, this Directive is missing a few key components of the most successful whistleblower laws: effective reward and protection provisions.
To educate and provide guidance on these needed whistleblower provisions within the EU, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) has partnered with Munich-based Whistleblowing International (WI), an independent non-profit organization that supports and defends whistleblowers, investigates corruption cases, advocates for stronger whistleblower rights, and works to hold criminals to account. WI is also a partner organization of the European Center for Whistleblower Rights and the Southeast Europe Coalition on Whistleblower Protection, the only regional whistleblower advocacy organizations in Europe.
Together, NWC and WI have launched the European Whistleblower Protection and Reward Project to educate European NGOs, the general public, government officials, and the media about the importance of whistleblower laws. The Project seeks to achieve four main goals:
- Promote U.S. whistleblower protections and reward laws within the European Union and explain how they can be duplicated,
- Establish a whistleblower reward system within the European Union modelled on U.S. reward laws following the passage of the Whistleblowing Directive,
- Educate European whistleblowers interested in reporting violations related to corruption and/or climate change on the benefits of U.S. reward laws and the importance of other nations enacting similar laws, and
- Educate European whistleblowers whenever it appears that U.S. whistleblower laws may provide a means to report violations related to offshore oil drilling or violations in other industries which would impact climate change.
In its current state, the EU Directive only mandates “minimum” protections for whistleblowers and explicitly authorizes Members States to go beyond the minimum safety-net required. By enacting whistleblower reward laws, Member States will minimize the downsides of whistleblowing like potential retaliation and loss of income, while at the same time maximizing the utility of whistleblower disclosures to law enforcement. They can also clarify the ambiguity of whistleblower confidentiality within the EU Directive and ensure stronger protections for any whistleblower that steps forward.
Through the European Whistleblower Protection and Reward Project, the National Whistleblower Center and Whistleblowing International are working hard to ensure European citizens are educated and informed about how they can confidentially disclose information about illegal activities to authorities and qualify for financial awards not only under U.S. laws, but eventually under EU laws too.