TrustLaw helps secure milestone victory for EU whistleblower protection

by Maeve Halpin
Tuesday, 25 June 2019 16:15 GMT

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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“The campaign to win the EU Directive was a case study in civil society working effectively together and with teams of helpful experts, such as our wonderful lawyers at Dechert, whom TrustLaw connected us with.” - Dr. Suelette Dreyfus, Executive Director, Blueprint for Free Speech

 For the first time, whistleblowers have been given EU-wide protection through landmark legislation passed in April 2019 by the EU Parliament. The legislation shields whistleblowers from retaliation, create "safe channels" to allow them to report breaches of EU law, and aims to encourage reports of wrongdoing.

Whistleblowing is a type of freedom of expression where a person or group exposes information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct, within an organisation. As a result, whistleblowers put themselves at risk of backlash, harassment or retaliation. Until recently, despite pressure from civil society and major disclosures such as LuxLeaks and the Panama Papers, the laws protecting whistleblowers across European countries were limited.

Blueprint for Free Speech (Blueprint), a non-profit dedicated to improving freedom of expression around the globe, along with their coalition “A Change of Direction” made up of academics, NGOs, and civil society advocacy groups, have been working in the EU community to raise the standard of whistleblower protection legislation at both a country and pan-European level.

In 2018, Blueprint contacted TrustLaw for pro bono legal support to better inform the push for an EU Directive (an EU wide form of legislation) which they believed could provide a more comprehensive and universal standard of protection for whistleblowers. TrustLaw connected Blueprint with global law firm Dechert LLP to draft a memorandum on the legal process for creating EU directive.

“It was a true pleasure for the team to work with TrustLaw and Blueprint for Free Speech. Our legal background and knowledge of the EU institutions and legislative process blended seamlessly with Blueprint’s technical and substantive knowledge about whistleblower protection,” said Marjolein De Backer, Senior Associate at Dechert.

The legal research empowered Blueprint to effectively form strategies at a policy level. The organisation also used Dechert’s briefing notes to inform the broader EU community on the legal arguments to improve transparency, the complex process an EU Directive must go through to pass, and importantly, helped them feed into the drafting process.

 Dr Suelette Dreyfus, Executive Director of Blueprint for Free Speech, said: “We would not have been able to make the legal arguments needed in this brief, in plain words, specifically for an EU Directive without the help of Dechert, the wonderful law firm in Brussels who supports us in this.”

Marjolein De Backer added: “We wanted to work on this pro bono project because it addresses a lacuna in the rights and legal protection of European citizens and it allowed our team to apply their skill sets in relation to the EU legislative process. It was a successful and rewarding exercise which culminated in the adoption of an EU Directive protecting whistleblowers wanting to declare breaches of EU law.”

Find out more about TrustLaw’s impact.

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