EU Whistleblowing Directive and amendments to domestic legislation

Goran Lefkov

In 2019 the European Union adopted a new directive on whistleblowing and whistleblowers’ protection. That directive prescribes special conditions for whistleblowers’ protection in various areas of daily life. An interesting point in this session was that more than half of the speakers in this session were people who have been through whistleblowing as a process. Some of them before the adoption of the whistleblower law in 2015, some of them themselves were officers for receiving whistleblower complaints in the organizations where they worked. The session was moderated by Elmerina Ahmetaj Hrelja, from the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative. She pointed out that interesting changes are being made with the EU directive that should improve protection.

Professor Jovan Jovchevski explained in detail what it was like to be a whistleblower on the one hand and a person in charge of receiving complaints from whistleblowers on the other. He has been promoting the whistleblower law since 2015. Later he has implemented it himself. As the founder of OTA (Operational Technical Agency) in charge of wiretapping, he faced the challenge of being the person receiving the complaints and after receiving several complaints against the OTA director, he himself became a victim of the director. So, he tried to get the status of a whistleblower through the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption, but it did not happen. Professor Jovchevski described the theoretical part in detail but also in practice, how it works. He also gave instructions about what should be changed in our country regarding the EU Directive.

This panel had another PhD and former dean of the Faculty of Security in Skopje, Slagjana Taseva. She is the author of the first whistleblower law from 2015. Although a lot of time has passed, the law has not achieved its goals in the field of protection and has not justified her pioneering optimism while she was writing it. Its implementation has failed.

There were some other whistleblowers in the audience, who reported abuses 5 years before the law on whistleblower protection was passed. Marjan Popovski, as a former union leader in Rade Konchar, reported abuses of state bodies at the time, but instead of prosecuting the company’s crime, the institutions allowed him to be fired and dragged through the courts for years. He plastically explained and said through his experience what the new amendment to the law on whistleblower protection should contain, through his own example. Popovski emphasized that the EU Directive had to be implemented, but also the domestic problems of whistleblowers to be considered.

Shortcomings in the law were also mentioned at the debate, as well as illogical things that exist. Special emphasis was placed on the rules, if a whistleblower appears in the media and reports irregularities, he loses the status of a whistleblower. It was then mentioned that whistleblowers had to be financially protected. If a whistleblower is fired, upon receiving the status of whistleblower, he or she must be entitled to financial assistance, in the amount of the salary he/she receives, from an independent Fund. The case of Marjan Popovski and Jovan Jovchevski showed that there is a serious need for such a measure.

It was additionally mentioned that whistleblowers should also receive a percentage of the fine to be paid by the legal entity and the natural person reported by the specific whistleblower. This should stimulate whistleblowers and guarantee them financial security and protection.