[June 2023] State of whistleblowing: laws in Germany, Hungary & Ireland-Kosovo

More Member States are adopting the EU Whistleblower Directive and companies are faced with the task of modifying some of their processes and taking into account country-specific requirements and the transposition of EU-wide rules. In recent years, high profile corruption cases have led to public pressure on policy makers to implement changes in the way whistleblowers and corruption are dealt with. This means obvious changes for companies experiencing breaches of Union law. The most recent country to shift its position and agree to transposing the Directive is Germany. 

Germany Whistleblower Protection Act

Germany has made several unsuccessful attempts to reach an agreement, but the federal council ‘Bundesrat’ and the Parliament ‘Bundestag’ finally negotiated the passing of the new draft law through the Conciliation Committee. On May 12th, after a long and complicated legal process, the long-awaited German Whistleblower Protection Act was finally approved. 

After its rejection in February 2023 and long hours spent at the negotiation table, Germany’s federal government appealed to the Mediation Committee on the Whistleblower Protection Act in April, asking for amendments to the law passed by the Bundestag on December 16, 2022. The draft had not received the required majority of 35 votes in the 1030th plenary session of the Bundesrat, a press release read. 

The new Act now has two notable changes. It no longer requires organisations to process anonymous reports internally, and financial penalties businesses and organisations face for violations have been significantly reduced. The Mediation Committee noted that the maximum fine amount for violations should be €50,000, instead of €100,000. The German Whistleblower Protection Act is expected to come into force in June 2023. 

Opposition Leaders in Hungary Appeal to EU Commission

Hungarian President, Katalin Novak recently rejected the proposed Whistleblowing law and said that it went beyond the EU Directive standards. The bill has been widely criticised for a controversial article that would allow citizens to anonymously report same-sex families to authorities. The draft, approved earlier in April has been sent back to Parliament. 

The veto is a rare move for Novak who has largely supported Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In a letter to the National Assembly, Novak said that the anti-LGBTQ article ‘does not strengthen but rather weakens the protection of fundamental values’. Hungary’s proposed law is at the centre of a lawsuit filed by the European Parliament, European Commission, and several other Member States. The country was also found to be in breach of the EU Directive, along with seven other Member States that have missed the transposition deadline of December 17 2021.

Ireland-Kosovo Whistleblower Protection Discussions 

The European Union and Council of Europe Project against Economic Crime in Kosovo (PECK III) is working towards strengthening Kosovo’s whistleblower protection laws. On April 26th and 27th, the Council received a visit from a group of delegates representing prominent Kosovo institutions. The event was intended to discuss legal and operational challenges, practices and tools used in protecting whistleblowers and conducting investigations. 
As the private sector moves towards implementing the EU Directive, the objective of the exchange was to discuss how the new legislation will be enforced. Organisers of the event hope that the information exchange will help strengthen Kosovo’s internal and external whistleblower reporting channels in the public and private sector. The EU Whistleblowing Directive’s minimum standards for protecting persons reporting breaches of EU law came into force on May 4th 2023.