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Speak Up Europe

black and white image with a man's arm raised in a crowd of people.

Image: Jakayla Toney / Pexels

Whistleblowers are important players in national and European efforts to detect and prevent corruption. They have exposed malpractice, helped save public funds and avoid health and environmental disasters. We need more people blowing the whistle. This new project aims to prevent corruption in high-risk areas, in the European Union (EU), such as public procurement, healthcare, interaction between business and politics, by empowering people to speak up about it to those who can take action.

What’s at stake

Corruption costs the EU hundreds of billions of dollars every year, and empowered whistleblowers are critical to anti-corruption efforts.

Their importance is regularly illustrated by the scandals they uncover, everything from industrial scale procurement fraud to money laundering ). Many such cases of corruption can be prevented and exposed if more people are encouraged to come forward and report them to the relevant organisations, the authorities or civil society.

Unfortunately, four in five Europeans do not report the corruption they experience or witness, and half of European citizens would not know where to report corruption. Only 47 per cent of European citizens feel that they can safely report corruption, with 45 per cent fearing reprisals for speaking up. Far too often, those who witness malpractice are not empowered to say something. This is because often when they do, they face personal, professional and legal attacks, harming their mental and even physical well-being.

Victims and witnesses of corruption need access to safe, tangible, and viable mechanisms to report wrongdoing and get redress. Robust legislation is also necessary to protect individuals who blow the whistle and ensure that the wrongdoing they report is addressed. In addition, people need support from trusted sources, both before they blow the whistle -- to limit risks of retaliation and improve chances of positive results -- and after-- to address issues of retaliation and inaction.

Despite whistleblowers often risking their livelihood, and sometimes even their lives, to expose corruption, they are viewed with suspicion by society. To ensure that people who step forward to disclose wrongdoing are acknowledged and protected, it is key to spread awareness about the importance of whistleblowers.

What we’re doing about it

Speak Up Europe is a new project aiming to prevent corruption in high-risk areas in the EU by empowering individuals to speak up about misconduct to public, private and civil society organisations that can take action.

To achieve this, the project will help provide European citizens with safe corruption reporting channels to receive technical, legal and advocacy assistance in Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia. The analysis of the complaints received will in turn allow Transparency International’s national chapters in these countries to identify systemic issues in high-risk sectors and inform their advocacy accordingly.

The project will also help public and private European organisations in high-risk sectors to implement best-practice whistleblowing mechanisms. Not only will it benefit workers who will have access to safe channels to report corruption and receive information on their rights and obligations, it will also benefit public and private organisations, as whistleblowing mechanisms are effective corruption risk management and prevention tools. This will allow the organisations to be alerted to and address corruption issues, thus preventing or mitigating damages for them and, often, the public interest. Hence, it will also benefit society-at-large.

Our approach

Citizen outreach: As whistleblowers are still viewed negatively in many EU countries, public outreach is necessary to highlight their importance, encourage corruption reporting, and advertise safe reporting channels & support mechanisms. This project will support outreach campaigns across the EU, including in Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovenia.

Quality technical and legal aid: Whistleblowers need technical and legal aid from trusted sources, both before they make their disclosures to limit risks of retaliation and improve chances of positive results, and after, to address issues of retaliation and inaction. The project will support Transparency International chapters in Hungary and Slovenia to provide such assistance to victims and witnesses of corruption in their country.

Safe online platforms: The project will better equip Transparency International’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) to receive and manage corruption cases and inform the organisation’s advocacy through case analysis. ALACs in Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Latvia, and Romania will adopt the GlobaLeaks online reporting platform and Transparency International’s secure case management system. Already used by ALACs in over 15 countries, these platforms have increased the efficiency and security of corruption casework and improved TI’s advocacy through case analysis.

Developing and sharing best practice whistleblowing tools with public and private organisations: There is an increasing demand from public and private organisations in the EU for support to implement whistleblowing mechanisms in order to fulfil their obligations under the EU Directive on Whistleblower Protection. This project seeks to ensure that tools on whistleblowing mechanisms that are promoting best practices are accessible to a wide range of organisations so that these mechanisms effectively fulfill their corruption prevention, risk management and civil oversight functions. These tools include:

  • Best practice guidance on how to implement whistleblower protection mechanisms for organisations across the EU, and country-tailored guidance for organisations in Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia.
  • a safe online platform for public and private organisations for receiving and managing whistleblowing reports, based on a successful initiative currently supporting over 900 institutions in Italy. This platform will be piloted in Slovenia, with a view to supporting other EU countries to adopt the model in the future.