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Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union Law

Whistleblowers are individuals who, after coming across information that presents a threat or harm to the public interest in the course of their work environment, report it either within the organisation concerned or to an outside authority, or disclose it to the public. Fear of retaliation, however, often discourages individuals from reporting wrongdoing – which is why it is important that they are protected accordingly. But the current level of whistleblower protection in the EU is quite fragmented; it is available in specific sectors and in different degrees.

To address this fragmentation, the EU institutions have been calling for action at the EU level for some time. In October 2016, the Council, in its conclusions on tax transparency, highlighted the importance of whistleblower protection and urged the Commission to consider the possibility of EU-wide action. The European Parliament, from its part, in its resolution on the role of whistleblowers in the protection of the EU’s financial interest, urged the Commission to submit a proposal that would establish a European whistleblowing protection programme. Similarly, in its resolution ‘on legitimate measures to protect whistle-blowers acting in the public interest when disclosing the confidential information of companies and public bodies’ of 24 October 2017, the Parliament called, once again, on the Commission to take action on that front. The Committee on Legal Affairs also adopted a report on legitimate measures to protect whistle-blowers acting in the public interest when disclosing the confidential information of companies and public bodies. Finally, a public consultation on whistleblowing was organised in the course of 2017.

The Commission presented its proposal on 23 April 2018. The proposed Directive establishes a set of common minimum standards for the protection of persons reporting on the following unlawful activities or abuse of law: public procurement, financial services, money laundering and terrorist financing, product safety, transport safety, environmental protection, nuclear safety, food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, public health, consumer protection, privacy, data protection and security of networks and information systems. It requires, among other things, Member States to ensure that legal entities in the private and public sectors put in place adequate internal reporting channels and procedures for follow-up of reports. It also requires that reporting channels safeguard the confidentiality of the reporting person’s identity and that the service responsible for receiving the report follows up diligently and informs the informant within a reasonable timeframe after the report. In addition, it provides for effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties which are necessary a) to punish and proactively discourage actions aimed at hindering reporting, retaliatory actions, vexatious proceedings against reporting persons and breaches of the duty of maintaining the confidentiality of their identity, and b) to discourage malicious and abusive whistleblowing.

In the European Parliament, the proposal was assigned to the Committee on Legal Affairs. Several Committees have given their opinions on the proposal. On 27 November 2018, the Committee on Legal Affairs published its report for plenary and on 30 November, the decision to open interinstitutional negotiations was confirmed by the plenary.

Within the Council, discussions over the proposal have been taking place since May 2018. On 10 December 2018, the Presidency presented delegations with a third revision of the proposal and invited them to share their positions on this version of the text. The European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on 15 March 2019 and the former officially adopted the text on 16 April 2019.

On 8 October 2019, the text was adopted by the council after European Parliament's first reading and the Final act was signed on 23 October 2019, which was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 26 November 2019.

type: Directive

Reference number: 2019/1937

Issue date: 23-10-19

Official Journal: OJ L 305, 26 November 2019, pp. 17-56

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