Chapter News

Whistle-blowers: providing a valuable public service

MEPs debate on Wednesday 6 July the best way to protect whistle-blowers. Although whistle-blowers provide an important service to society, it’s not without risk as they often face prosecution. On 29 June Antoine Deltour was convicted of theft for having leaked details of controversial tax deals with multinationals in Luxembourg. However, revelations by people like him have allowed Parliament to set up inquiry committees to look into LuxLeaks and the Panama papers. Follow the debate live online.

The importance of whiste-blowers

Whiste-blowers can help draw attention to important issues that need tackling. Edward Snowden’s disclosures of NSA spying led to the European Court of Justice invalidating the Safe Harbour agreement that regulated the transfer of Europeans’ date to US-based servers such as those of Facebook and Google. The EU and the US are now negotiating an agreement to replace it known as Privacy Shield. MEPs are closely following the ongoing talks.

The previously mentioned Deltour exposed the tax rulings system, which helps multinationals to reduce their tax burden, while the Panama papers disclosed a vast network of straw companies, designed to hide who the real owner was and cheat the taxman.

Parliament’s role

The European Parliament has asked EU countries to grant Snowden protection as a human rights defender; US authorities have charged him with espionage and theft of government property.

Many MEPs supported whistle-blower Deltour and saluted his courage; he was one of the recipients ofEuropean Citizen’s Prize 2015. On 29 June Deltour was convicted of theft by a court in Luxembourg and given a 12-month suspended sentence, while the journalist he worked with was acquitted

Improving protection

in April MEPs supported the trade secrets directive to help firms win legal redress against theft or misuse of their trade secrets, however  they stressed the need to ensure that the legislation does not curb media freedom and pluralism or restrict the work of journalists, in particular with regard to their investigations and the protection of their sources

Critics of the legislation in Parliament and outside claim the protection clauses have too many loopholes and demand special EU legislation to help protect whistle-blowers.

When MEPs adopted a report by the special committee on organised crime in 2013, they called on the European Commission to establish a comprehensive whistle-blower protection programme. However, the Commission rejected the proposal.

Compliments of the European Parliament