Government goes for new try with whistleblower protection bill

Law. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The government approved a draft law protecting whistleblowers on Thursday, resulting in penalties for Estonia for late transposition of the EU directive. The regulation aims to protect whistleblowers in public sector organizations and businesses with more than 50 employees.

The proposed bill establishes a framework for receiving reports of wrongdoing, providing follow-up and feedback, and protecting informants.

The government approved a similar proposal in December 2021, the day before the deadline for transposition, and the first reading of the proposal took place on January 26, 2022. The bill was slated to go into effect in June of the same year, but the European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Estonia in January.

The parliamentary process came to a halt after about 300 amendments were proposed to the bill: EKRE suggested the majority of the revisions, with the SDE and Isamaa adding their own as well. The proposal dropped out of parliamentary procedure by the end of the parliamentary session.

The draft, which has been re-approved by the government, should enter into force as a law on January 1 next year.

Failure to transpose the EU regulation into Estonian legislation has resulted in legal action, with the European Commission suing Estonia through the European Court of Justice for €600 per day of delay in adopting the directive, totaling about €270,000 so far. Estonia has agreed to the amount of the fine; however, the commission usually charges a minimum amount of €168,000 in such cases.

Members of the government at the time criticized the draft for being too broad in scope and for not focusing exclusively on violations of EU law. The Ministry of Finance has stated that the Directive is being implemented too strictly and the tax administration's capacity to verify leads has already been strained.

The draft also takes into account significant criticism received during the preparation process, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The draft, proposed by Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet (Reform), controls and protects whistleblowers in the areas of the most substantial financial flows, corruption risks, distortions of competition and damages.

Intentionally filing a false report, as well as obstructing or intimidating a whistleblower, will be punishable.

The information channel must be set up by public authorities, companies with at least 50 employees and municipal authorities.


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Editor: Barbara Oja, Kristina Kersa

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