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European citizens want to speak up – but fear the consequences

One out of four citizens in the European Union (EU) believes that reporting corruption is the most effective thing a person can do to fight it. Unfortunately only a small minority of them would speak up, according to our recent public survey, covering 22 out of the 28 EU member states.

Why is this? Put simply, most fear the consequences: 35% of EU citizens said they are afraid of retaliation or a negative backlash such as losing their job. In France, The Netherlands and Portugal it is 50% who expressed this concern.

At the same time, the majority of European citizens feels personally compelled to report an incidence of corruption. In France, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, UK and Portugal more than 80% said they would feel obliged to speak up if they would witness wrongdoing.

We need EU-wide whistleblower protection!

If we want to fight corruption effectively we need to close this gap. Whistleblowers across the EU must be protected and supported when they witness or suspect wrongdoing. But legal protection is uneven across the EU - and poor to non-existent in most EU member states. Ireland adopted a strong bill in 2014, and last week France passed the Loi Sapin which includes provisions for whistleblower protection. But in other countries like Germany and Poland there is no progress at all, and the current whistleblowing legislation process in Italy is stuck at the Senate with an uncertain outcome.

That’s why Transparency International and many other organisations have joined forces in a call for a European law on whistleblower protection. An EU directive in line with good standards for such laws as developed by the Council of Europe and Transparency International would provide certainty for whistleblowers across Europe that their disclosures are protected.

Brave citizens like Andrea Forzoso or John Wilson have successfully uncovered fraud, corruption or danger to public health and safety. LuxLeaks whistleblowers Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet have helped to shed light on harmful tax avoidance practices, leading to a wide debate about tax transparency and to the adjustment of related rules and regulations.

But without legal protection such people take an enormous risk. Many end up in court or lose their jobs, even though their disclosures were critical to protect the public interest.

This needs to change: If we want to root out corruption and other types of wrongdoing we need to ensure that whistleblowers get the appropriate protection and support. An EU directive would be an important step into the right direction. Sign here to support our call for EU-wide whistleblower protection!

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