The Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative (RAI) in Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted a two-day webinar series called “Annual Regional Multi-Beneficiary Training on Whistleblower Protection.” The events occurred on February 9 and 11 and were conducted under the European Union (EU) program, “Breaking the Silence: Enhancing the Whistleblowing Policies and Culture in Western Balkans and Moldova.”
The two webinars served as training sessions for public officials from justice ministries and anti-corruption agencies, representatives of EU delegations, and members of civil society organizations involved in whistleblowing support and advocacy, according to the event page. Representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia were present at the trainings.
One of the subjects that the webinars covered was the EU Whistleblowing Directive. Passed in 2019, the Directive (EU) 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law compels EU Member States to adopt whistleblower protection laws. The Directive requires that each Member State “bring into force the laws, regulations, and administrative provisions” by December 2021.
The webinars covered the purpose and key requirements of the Directive. A main topic of discussion was the key findings and recommendations of an RAI assessment of the compliance of South Eastern European whistleblower protection laws with the EU Whistleblowing Directive. Member States are to follow “common minimum standards” when creating and implementing whistleblower legislation; however, the Directive also allows member states to “decide to extend the application of national provisions to other areas with a view to ensuring that there is a comprehensive and coherent whistleblower protection framework at national level.” Thus, whistleblower advocates have urged member states such as Latvia to go beyond the Directive’s requirements and create stronger whistleblower laws.
The two RAI training sessions also discussed free speech in the workplace, the best approaches in protecting whistleblowers in practice, and how good whistleblowing programs lead to the successful protection of whistleblowers. The two webinars featured a range of international and regional experts on whistleblowing including Mark Worth, founder of several NGOs including the European Center for Whistleblower Rights and the Center for Whistleblower Rights & Rewards.
Stephen M. Kohn, lawyer at whistleblower law firm Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto and cofounder of the Center for Whistleblower Rights & Rewards, gave a presentation on the first day of the training. Kohn explained major U.S. whistleblower laws such as the False Claims Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and their successes in detecting and prosecuting fraud. Other guests at the two trainings were Vanja Ćalović Marković of the Network for the Affirmation of NGO Sector (MANS) in Montenegro, and anti-corruption experts Elmerina Ahmetaj Hrelja and Aneta Arnaudovska of RAI.
The training was “part of building out the infrastructure in the EU and internationally for making whistleblower laws stronger,” Worth said in an interview with WNN. He explained that the notion of whistleblowing is relatively new in Europe: “The practice of what’s been going on in the U.S. since the ‘80s is very new.” He expressed enthusiasm for having individuals like Kohn conduct trainings for European officials in anticipation of the EU Member States passing whistleblower laws to comply with the Directive. Worth sees the European Center for Whistleblower Rights and the Center for Whistleblower Rights & Rewards as “the venue through which these trainings and consultations will occur.” Hopefully, these training efforts will help the EU member states implement strong whistleblower laws and protection.