Brussels (Brussels Morning) The two parties of the German ruling coalition reportedly cannot come to an agreement on the extent of whistleblower protection to be offered in a new law currently under consideration that has to be passed before December if it is to meet the EU’s deadline, Deutsche Welle reports.
The deadline was set by an EU Directive in 2019 that mandated that all member states should provide offer whistleblowers with more comprehensive protection, including those who facilitate whistleblowing, such as colleagues and relatives. The Directive is primarily designed to protect whistleblowers from retaliatory measures, but it also requires companies to implement in-house mechanisms to report and escalate complaints internally.
A German draft law to meet the Directive’s requirements penned by the Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) was almost immediately rejected by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), on grounds that it went much further than technically required.
Currently, German companies can lay off employees as desired, and it is up to whistleblowers to fend for themselves while awaiting the outcome of often long and arduous legal challenge procedures. This exposes many whistleblowers to employer retaliation, leaving them economically vulnerable, some to the point of destitution and unable to find new employment.
Both political parties agree that a whistleblower law is needed in principle. However, the CDU objects to the scope or range of reported crimes for which whistleblowers would be afforded protection. The SPD proposal covers all the requisite breaches of EU law, such as financial crimes, data protection violations and non-observance of environmental and safety protection standards, etc.
More crimes protected
However, Minister Lambrecht’s draft would also extend protection and immunity to those reporting crimes punishable by German law, such as bribery, sexual assault and human trafficking. For CDU, this represents placing an additional and unnecessary burden on an already pandemic-stricken economy, which it fears would overwhelm businesses with a surfeit of bureaucratically-administered regulations.
With parliamentary elections scheduled for September, and the two parties unlikely to form another coalition together, the whistleblower law is deemed likely to be the first of a series of disagreements that the two will try to exploit in bidding to show the voters that they differ from one another. If no agreement is reached before the elections, the new law’s final shape will likely be defined by a future coalition, one involving the Greens, who currently lead both parties in the polls.