European Parliament approves new internal rules on whistleblowers protection
The European Parliament approved new internal rules on how whistleblowers can act and how they are protected on Monday evening (20 November), to update and clarify existing procedures, an official source from the European Parliament told Euractiv.
“Parliament staff, including parliamentary assistants, now have a clear set of rules on how whistleblowers can act and how they are protected, in line with the Whistleblowers´ Directive,” the official source told Euractiv.
A whistleblower is a person who informs on a person or organisation regarded as engaging in an unlawful or moral activity.
Corruption and lobbying activities have become increasingly sensitive topics in the Parliament after the so-called ‘Qatargate’ scandal, in which MEPs and some assistants were accused of taking bribes from Qatar and Morocco to influence the European Parliament’s position on matters concerning these two countries.
In February, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola presented a set of rules to improve the integrity of the European Parliament as a consequence of the scandal, approved by MEPs in September.
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In comparison with the previous set of rules, new provisions include anonymous reporting, a clearer definition of good faith and the addition of data protection provisions. In some cases, external institutions can be involved in the process such as the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) or “other institutions”, the official source told Euractiv.
According to rules adopted, ‘serious irregularities’ are defined as “illegal activities detrimental to the interests of the European Union, as such fraud, corruption, theft, serious infringements of public procurement rules or conduct relating to the discharge of professional duties which may constitute a serious failure to comply with the obligations incumbent on officials, other staff members and Members of the institution,” the European Parliament official told Euractiv.
For the protection of complaints, for instance, a “system to secure online transmission of whistleblowing notification to the secretary general” is in development, according to a document on the matter by the European Parliament bureau, seen by Euractiv.
“There is also mandatory training for managers,” the European Parliament official added.
The mandatory training for accredited parliamentary assistants (APAs) will be set up in another proposal, the document said.
On the protection of the whistleblowers themselves, “further clarify what potential whistleblowers should do, what they can expect to happen after they make the notification, and what information they should expect to receive,” the European Parliament official told Euractiv.
The rules also establish a new set of anti-harassment procedures, to clarify steps to take when dealing with this matter, for instance in the creation of a new mediation service to help “Members and staff in resolving difficult relational situations,” the European Parliament official told Euractiv.
New measures will also be put in place for the protection of the witnesses and deadlines.