Brussels, 20 Feb. 2023 – It’s actually concerning that EU funding members such as Italy, Luxembourg and Germany did not comply with the Commission anti corruption Directive on Whistleblowing, a fundamental law to tackle corruption. States had been given time to approve domestic law in line with the provisions of the Directive by 17 December 2021.

Instead eight countries did not and now the Commission is referring to the EU Court of Justice Germany, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia.  

The Court marks the start of the infraction procedure for failure of transposing the directive into domestic law.

But the core of the issue is why to some western democracies such as Italy the protection of whistleblowers is not an absolute priority. Which groups of interests delay the legislative procedure imposing protection and guarantees to those who report corruption within their workplace, business or public entity?

As a country prone to corruption Italy, for instance, registered in national stats a high level of widespread corruption within the job environment (clientelism, exchange of favors, bribery in change of jobs and career advancement) where access to work is de facto ruled through relations and interdependency. Italian Institute of National Statistics Istat, reports work environment is on top followed by health and public procurement to even include bribery of judges for common civil courts hearings.

But the core of the issue relies on the fact workforce, nearly at any level, is recruited through irregular channels (personal relations or referral from interest groups), this narrows down to a tiny, isolated and subdued minority those who have regularly applied for work (and often in lower positions), who are independent from ties and who therefore are excluded by default from the career dynamics.

This leads to a high level of complicity within work environments as the vast majority got the job thanks to a relation and de facto through a favor or as the mean of parties exchanging favors by ‘selling’ a position, and this only makes whistleblowing and reporting corruption very rare and dangerous because of the risk of reprisal from interconnected groups against undefended individuals, such as constructive dismissals and even damages to the personal lives of those who blow the whistle in case they found out and report corruption or law violation.

Politics and political parties play also a big role in the ‘recruitment’ of the workforce across all industries, and not just in the public sector, as Lazio, the region of the capital Rome, is on top of chart for corruption percentage with 17,9%.

The EU Directive was just about this: protecting those who report corruption and so prevent widespread corruption across EU countries.

In January 2022, the Commission sent letters of formal notice to 24 Member States for not fully transposing and informing the Commission of the implementation of EU Directive before the deadline. “Furthermore – Commission reports – it sent reasoned opinions to 15 Member States in July 2022, and to four Member States in September 2022 for failing to communicate measures fully transposing the directive. As eight Member States’ replies to the Commission’s reasoned opinions were unsatisfactory, the Commission has decided to refer these Member States to the Court of Justice of the European Union”.

Emy Muzzi