- February 11, 2021
- Posted by: Dejana Grbic-Velagic
- Category: RAI News
The EU Whistleblowing Directive was passed in December 2019 to provide and promote a safe and secure way for persons to speak up about wrongdoings in their work environment. It also provides a high level of protection to whistleblowers against retaliation, and requires national authorities to adequately inform citizens and train public officials on how to deal with whistleblowing.
Following the Gap Analysis of Whistleblower Protection Laws in SEE jurisdictions, which assesses the level of compliance of these laws with the EU Whistleblowing Directive, the RAI Secretariat delivered a two-day Annual Regional Multi-Beneficiary Training on Whistleblower Protection on February 9 and 11, 2021.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this training was delivered on-line, through two webinars: 1. ‘Building Effective Whistleblower Protections for the Benefit of Citizens in line with the EU Whistleblowing Directive’ and 2. ‘Experiences of Public Institutions and Civil Society in Handling Whistleblower Reports: How to Enhance Mutual Cooperation and Coordination?’ taking place one day apart to provide participants (e.g. professionals from anti-corruption agencies and other oversight bodies) to attend both webinars with time for retrospection.
The training took place in a mixed environment of more than 50 participants representing ministries of justice, anti-corruption agencies or other whistleblowing enforcement bodies, representatives of EU delegations, and 22 representatives of 15 CSOs involved in whistleblowing support and advocacy from 10 SEE jurisdictions, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia.
The comprehensive agenda of the training covered, among other topics, the purpose and overview of key requirements of the EU Whistleblowing Directive; the practices of the European Court of Human Rights on key concepts of the EU Whistleblowing Directive; free speech in the workplace; best approaches in protecting whistleblowers in practice; how good whistleblowing programs lead to successful protection of whistleblowers; the opportunities for collaboration between CSOs and public institutions in whistleblowing protection; the lifecycle of a whistleblower case, from disclosure and support to investigation and protection/corrective actions and other issues as a result of reflections and discussions on experiences of public institutions and civil society.
The training was delivered by international and regional experts on whistleblowing, Mr. Tom Devine, Mr. Mark Worth, Mr. Stephan Kohn, Mr. Mevludin Dzindo, Mr. Boris Vukasinovic, and Ms. Vanja Calovic Markovic, the RAI Secretariat project manager – anti-corruption expert, Ms. Elmerina Ahmetaj Hrelja, and senior anti-corruption advisor Ms. Aneta Arnaudovska, combined with group discussions and recommendations.
The Head of the RAI Secretariat, Mr. Vladan Joksimovic, who provided the opening remarks, stressed the assistance of the RAI Secretariat in the improvements to whistleblowing legislative framework in SEE in line with the EU Whistleblowing Directive. „Today’s training will among other things be an opportunity to hear about key findings and recommendations of the RAI assessment of the compliance of whistleblower protection laws in SEE with the EU Whistleblowing Directive (Gap Analysis), and more importantly to discuss and exchange best practices in whistleblower protection in the region and broadly (EU, USA) “.
Ms. Kay Binder, Policy Officer from the European Commission, Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negations, in her remarks, thanked RAI Secretariat for its continuing efforts to enhance whistleblower protection systems in SEE pointed out that good and functional laws and institutional arrangements, coupled with leadership commitment and public education are key to building effective whistleblower protection systems. Ms. Binder underlined the commitment of EU to support the building of such systems in line with the EU Whistleblowing Directive.
Ms. Elmerina Ahmetaj Hrelja, Project Manager and Anti-corruption Expert, who moderated the event, presented on the purpose, key requirements of the EU Whistleblowing Directive, and the importance of the transposition of the EU Whistleblowing Directive in SEE laws.
Ms. Aneta Arnaudovska, Senior Anticorruption Adviser of RAI Secretariat, presented the practice of the European Court of Human Rights on key concepts of the EU Whistleblowing Directive with a focus on reasonable belief and reversed burden of proof.
Mr. Mark Worth, Whistleblowing Expert of RAI Secretariat, who spoke about RAI Gap Analysis in SEE laws, conveyed a clear message to the participants to be open when it comes to the implementation of laws. „We have laws, we have staff, we have international experts, let’s minimize the number of factors which are frequently slowing down a reform of good governance and creation of fair society”.
Mr. Stephan Kohn from Nation Whistleblower Center, who spoke about the key sources for detecting fraud and corruption, said that „Without a strong whistleblower program corruption cannot be effectively detected or prosecuted.”
Mr. Mevludin Džindo, Assistant Director of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption and Coordination of the Fight against Corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Mr. Boris Vukasinovic, Agency for the Prevention of Corruption in Montenegro, who spoke about the lifecycle of a whistleblower case handled by public institutions, addressed practical experiences in disclosure and support to investigation and protection of a whistleblower.
On a lifecycle of a whistleblower case handled by a CSO, remarks were provided by Ms. Vanja Calovic Markovic from MANS in Montenegro, who spoke about alternative reporting channels made available to a whistleblower by NGOs, and stressed the importance of the confidentiality of the identity of a whistleblower and of collecting and providing evidence investigative/prosecuting bodies.
These presentations were accompanied by tour-de-table discussions of representatives of public institutions and civil society organizations on their experiences in improving whistleblower protection, the challenges they encountered and opportunities for improvements, and in strengthening channels of communication among representatives from governmental and non-governmental sectors in handling whistleblowing reports.
Concluding remarks included a call to turn the laws into a reality and use them to make a difference in the fight against corruption, for which the following is required: the commitment of the organizational leadership, strengthened capacity to implement the law through training, public education, and transparency in how the law is implemented.
The training was conducted under the framework of the regional project ‘Breaking the Silence: Enhancing the whistleblowing policies and culture in Western Balkans and Moldova’, which is funded by the European Union and implemented by the RAI Secretariat.
For further information about the training content and the participants, please follow this link.
 Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2019/1937/oj
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration on Independence