[December 2022] State of whistleblowing: laws in Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Sweden

The transposition of the EU Directive into national laws continues to make advances. As of November 2022, 10 EU Member States, including Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, and Sweden, have finalized the transposition of the EU Directive. Other countries like Estonia, the Netherlands, and Greece have faced delays in approving new Whistleblowing laws, and Hungary has made little to no progress. In recent news, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Italy have made significant advances in the integration of the EU Whistleblowing Directive. Yet, Sweden’s introduction of a new anti-espionage measure risks weakening new whistleblowing rules. This is December’s State of Whistleblowing, a monthly report about the latest EU directive developments in whistleblowing.

EU Whistleblowing Directive adoption status:

❌1/27 – Not started 🇭🇺

⚠️16/27 –  Delayed 🇦🇹🇧🇪🇧🇬🇨🇿🇪🇪🇫🇮🇩🇪🇬🇷🇮🇹🇱🇺🇵🇱🇷🇴🇸🇰🇸🇮🇪🇸🇳🇱

✅10/27 – Law Adopted 🇭🇷🇨🇾🇩🇰🇫🇷🇮🇪🇱🇻🇱🇹🇲🇹🇵🇹🇸🇪

Whistleblower directive Belgium

Belgium implemented major changes to its employment laws that will strengthen existing measures for protecting employees against retaliation. The new law takes effect on January 1st, 2023 and will require companies with 20 or more employees to implement a policy that gives employees the right to disconnect outside of working hours. As of November 10th, Belgian employers must be transparent about their employees’ salaries, benefits, and work hours. The new rules are in line with the EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions.

Italy whistleblowing directive

The Italian parliament recently made progress with its regulations on the transposition of European directives. The government approved new rules that align with the EU Commission on August 2nd, 2022, after a second reading by the Senate passed in June. The legislation contains provisions that will ensure the transposition of 14 EU directives, including the EU Whistleblowing Directive. Italy’s slow democratic process has delayed changes within the Member State. In 2021, a similar law expired before a draft Bill was issued. The new mandate gives the Italian government three months to finalize and ratify a transposition bill on this and other EU regulations. 

Whistleblowing in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, a new draft whistleblower law has been introduced in Parliament. Just 5 months ago, the country faced a political crisis following the collapse of its new pro-European government. Bulgaria has seen multiple corruption scandals in recent years. The draft law for the protection of whistleblowers was approved by lawmakers on September 28th, 2022. It guarantees protection against retaliation when employees in the public and private sectors disclose information about potential fraud or corruption. 

Swedish whistleblowing

Sweden has expanded its espionage law, a move that many media experts claim will put the freedom of whistleblowers and journalists at risk. Under the new rules, journalists, news publishers, and whistleblowers could potentially face up to 8 years in prison for revealing information that could damage Sweden’s relationship with other nations or international organizations. The new rules risk diminishing the country’s democratic freedoms by limiting investigative journalism and making the disclosure of ‘secret information’ illegal. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson argued the law will make international cooperation easier and is not intended to restrict freedom of speech and journalism. 

By definition, espionage is illegal, while whistleblowing isn’t. One of the founding principles of whistleblower protection is to facilitate the protection of sources that risk their livelihood to reveal corruption, fraud, and other misconduct to the public. The new EU Directive is meant to protect against the unjustified treatment of people who report wrongdoing in food faith through the right channels. The continued delays in introducing whistleblowing laws across Member States, and the Swedish authorities’ recent decision to strengthen its espionage measures highlight the challenge of introducing standards for protecting whistleblowers across multiple countries.