For all of the attention on US and international cases, Europe has been home to some of the world’s most spectacular whistleblower revelations in recent years.
Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet withstood criminal prosecution after exposing sweetheart tax deals secretly granted to multinational corporations by Luxembourg officials. Bradley Birkenfeld served three years in prison after disclosing mass-scale tax evasion enabled by the Swiss bank UBS.
Ana Garrido brought Spain’s political establishment to its knees by unmasking by a nationwide bribery, money laundering and tax evasion ring. Macedonia’s government collapsed after three police officers revealed illegal wiretapping of 20,000 people, including politicians, business owners, journalists and professors. The Bosnian mining company Tuzla Kvarc was terrorized after reporting a government bribery scheme.
For their efforts to serve the public interest, each of these people suffered great personal and professional losses. Their lives will never be the same.
Their disclosures, however, were all game-changers – not just because they uncovered billions of dollars in systematic looting and graft, but because they powerfully spotlighted the need for strong legal rights for whistleblowers. They didn’t just introduce “whistleblowing” to Europeans who previously had little or no concept of the idea. They made people across the continent understand the essential need for citizens to speak out against corruption.
For years, campaigners throughout Europe have worked to improve whistleblower rights. Sixteen of the EU’s 28 countries now have some protections in place, but only nine have designated laws that cover public- and private-sector employees. And most of these laws are poorly utilized, enforced and understood. Worse still, they can backfire against whistleblowers uninitiated in legislative complexity.
Today, an organization is being launched to expand these campaigns and serve as the voice of a new Europe-wide whistleblower movement.
The European Center for Whistleblower Rights was established by Mark Worth, who has been working with whistleblowers for more than 30 years – as an investigative journalist, campaigner and policy advisor. Mark is the co-founder of the Southeast Europe Coalition on Whistleblower Protection, board member of the new Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF), and founder of international whistleblower programs at Transparency International and Blueprint for Free Speech.
Let’s hope this new organization can lead Europe toward a better future for free speech, human rights and justice.