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New whistleblowing law sets bar high for EU

New Whistleblowing Law in France 

A new whistleblower protection law has been passed today in France.

French Parliament formally adopted the new legislation – Proposition de loi visant à améliorer la protection des lanceurs d'alerte  which will likely come into force in March. 

Read more: The new French whistleblowing law: renewed hope for European whistleblowers?

The new legislation reforms the existing law known as “Sapin II” to bring the whistleblower protection framework in line with the EU Directive on Whistleblowing adopted in late 2019.

Directive (EU) 2019/1937 must be fully implemented by all 27 EU Member States and France becomes the eighth EU country to adopt a transposition law – joining Cyprus, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Malta, Lithuania, and Latvia.  Most countries have been seriously delayed in the process which should have been fully completed by 17 December 2021 and the EU Commission has now begun infringement proceedings.

Read more: Are EU countries failing to protect whistleblowers?

In implementing the Directive – EU governments had a choice – to transpose the minimum standard requirements verbatim, or go further and introduce more comprehensive provisions, in line with emerging international consensus on whistleblower protection.

Read more: Are Whistleblowing Laws Working? A Global Study of Whistleblower Protection Litigation

In adopting this new law, France has demonstrated that a more responsible and progressive approach is possible. It extends the scope of protection, introduces new mechanisms for protection and sets a new standard for sanctions and support measures.

A victory for civil society

The new law is considered a victory for civil society in France who have been campaigningtirelessly to strengthen protection during transposition of the Directive.  Over the last two years civil society, including WIN Member Maison des Lanceurs d’alerte, have been working with Unions, legal experts, and MP Sylvain Waserman to draft the law which has today been passed.

The Bill was introduced into Parliament by Sylvain Waserman – who is former rapporteur on whistleblower protection to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Despite some opposition from the French Senate, an agreement on the text was reached in January and the final version adopted today includes some key provisions which raise the standards of whistleblowing legislation across Europe.

Key features include:

  • A wide material scope: Reporting harm to the public interest will be protected, even if not a breach of EU or national law.
  • Protection of whistleblowing facilitators: including NGOS who assist reporting
  • Immunities: including criminal and civil liability
  • Support measures: including financial and psychological assistance and funding to cover legal fees
  • Dissuasive Sanctions: personal liability for retaliation inc. hefty fines (60k) or imprisonment (3 years)
  • National Security: Defence whistleblowers will be protected unless reporting classified information.

Anonymous reporting will also be facilitated which the EU Commission had left up to Member States.

WIN is delighted to see the continued success of civil society coalition and cross border collaboration. Any learnings from the success of experts and campaigners in France will be shared in other countries and we hope other EU governments are taking note of France’s approach.

Please visit the  EU Whistleblowing Monitor to track the progress of transposition of the Directive across all 27 Member States. View France’s country page and transposition updates here.

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