EU wants to protect whistleblowers, Austria hesitates

“Watch out, they want to kill us both. Look under your car for the next few days before you get in. ”This is what the Austrian ambassador to Athens, Herbert Amry, said to his press attaché, Ferdinand Hennerbichler.

The ambassador died two days later under unknown circumstances.

Hennerbichler is certain that Amry was poisoned. He informed the Foreign Ministry about illegal arms deliveries by the Voest subsidiary Noricum to Iran. Amry was a whistleblower.

Famous whistleblowers

He joins Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. They are whistleblowers who have uncovered grievances and who must be protected. Many economic crimes and abuse of power would go undetected without whistleblowers like them.

Pressure and reprisals

Whistleblowers are often silenced by reprisals. To protect them, the EU signed the Whistleblower Directive in 2019. It obliges member states to implement a national law to protect whistleblowers by December 17, 2021. Austria’s law has been a long time coming.

Nevertheless: From December 17th. In 2021, whistleblowers can refer to EU law under certain circumstances. At least when violating Union law is reported; such as money laundering, human trafficking, terrorist financing or environmental protection offenses. This does not apply to national criminal law or antitrust law. Austria would have to expand the directive at national level.

The EU requirement

The EU directive obliges member states to create official reporting channels, for example with authorities, through which whistleblowers can submit reports safely and efficiently.

In addition, companies with more than 249 employees must create internal reporting channels from December 17, 2021. If they do not, however, they face no sanctions. Whistleblowers then contact the authorities established with their report.

Even if there is an in-house office, a report in the company is optional, it can also be reported immediately to the responsible authority. The step to the authorities, however, has to be done before the whistleblower turns to the media. “Only then is he legally protected from reprisals by the directive. Unless he can argue that there is a special closeness between the accused and the authority or that there is imminent danger ”.

Or, if the authority does not take action. The reporting office must confirm receipt of the report within one week and inform about follow-up measures within three months.

A step towards more efficient education and more legal protection.

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