Protecting whistleblowers: a European challenge - by the Defender of Rights

In France, the Defender of Rights, an independent administrative authority, is competent to guide and protect whistleblowers since the law of December 9, 2016 on transparency, the fight against corruption and the modernization of economic life. Three years after the entry into force of this device and two years before the implementation of the European directive, the Defender of Rights is organizing its European meeting “Protecting whistleblowers: a European challenge”.

This meeting brought together around three round tables whistleblowers, sociologists, lawyers, practitioners and public authorities from different European countries. The objective was not only to highlight the challenges, strengths and weaknesses of the protection regimes for whistleblowers established in the European Union, but also to suggest avenues for improving them and guaranteeing whistleblowers. a high level of protection.

At a time when all the member countries of the Union are called upon to transpose the European directive, it seems important to bring out from these exchanges the general recommendations, sometimes divergent, which were mentioned by all the speakers, including the Defender of rights.

These recommendations, which aim to promote the development of alerts and improve the protection of whistleblowers by institutions offering certain guarantees, are likely to guide the implementation of the transposition of the European directive and the application of the legislation which will result. They call for important choices that it will be up to States, and in particular to France, to make in order to offer whistleblowers a safe, understandable and truly protective framework.

Definition of whistleblower:

Whistleblowers are people who report wrongdoing that they have observed in the course of their work and that is likely to harm the public interest, for example by causing damage to the environment, public health and consumer safety as well as public finances.

The protection of whistleblowers is currently fragmentary. Currently, only 10 EU countries have comprehensive whistleblower protection legislation. At EU level, it is only in a limited number of sectors (mainly in the area of financial services) that there is legislation including measures to protect whistleblowers.

According to a study carried out in 2017 for the European Commission, the potential loss of benefits due to the lack of protection for whistleblowers would be between 5.8 and 9.6 billion euros per year for the whole of the 'EU, only in the field of public procurement.

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Virginie Gastine Menou

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