Whistleblowers’ protection in Bulgaria

Why do we care

Whistleblowers play an essential role in exposing corruption and other wrongdoing that threaten the public interest. By disclosing information about such misdeeds, whistleblowers have helped save countless lives and billions of euros in public funds.

Whistleblowers often put themselves at high personal risk. They may be fired, sued, blacklisted, arrested, and threatened. Protecting whistleblowers from such retaliation will promote the efficient exposure of corruption, while also enhancing openness and accountability in government and corporate workplaces.

Protecting whistleblowers from unfair treatment, including retaliation, discrimination, or disadvantage, can embolden people to report wrongdoing and thus increase the likelihood that wrongdoing is uncovered and penalised.

Whistleblower protection is thus a key means of enhancing openness and accountability in government and corporate workplaces. On the contrary, the lack of adequate protection can pose a dilemma for whistleblowers if to report wrongdoing and doing so to damage their career or expose themselves to retaliation.

The Challenge

By the beginning of 2020 a dedicated national legislation for protecting of whistleblowers is in force in the following European countries: the United Kingdom, Romania, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Malta, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland, Slovakia, Serbia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Albania, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia.

Bulgaria stays behind a good number of countries both EU Members States and our neighbors from Balkan region. The development of national rules and practice on this issue is therefore urgent and demands political will and responsibility.

The Solution

Since 2017 Transparency International Bulgaria has been intensively advocating for whistleblowers protection in our country. In the first place our efforts were aimed at advancement of an environment and at promotion of prerequisites for the adoption of national legislation.

Key aspects, findings, and outcomes:

– The common understanding, that an adequate protection of whistleblowers and their confidence in it will incentivise people to speak up, is being shared between a broad number of public institutions, private sector, and civil society organisations.

– An immediate start of a public dialogue involving all stakeholders will ensure the consistent introduction of adequate national rules for the protection of whistleblowers.

– The introduction of the legislation will deeply affect various branches of the national legal system, both in the field of substantive and procedural rules. This highlights the need for an in-depth analysis and assessment of the impact on the affected sectors of the current national legislation.

– The development of an adequate framework for the protection of whistleblowers is not limited to the adoption of legislation. Its implementation should be among the priority measures of the “National Strategy for Prevention and Counteraction of Corruption in the Republic of Bulgaria for the period 2021 – 2027″.

Our activities coincided with a similar process at EU level – the adoption of EU Directive on whistleblowers protection. The Directive on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law sets out common minimum standards ensuring that whistleblowers are protected effectively.

Transposition of the Directive into the national legal framework will affect the state institutions, the local governance, as well as the private sector, who are required to implement specific measures at organisational level.

Further reading

Protection of People Reporting Wrongdoing – Way Forward for Bulgaria, Roundtable Discussion

Directive (EU) 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law

International Principles for Whistleblower Legislation

A Best Practice Guide for Whistleblowing Legislation

The Business Case for ‘Speaking Up’: How Internal Reporting Mechanisms Strengthen Private-Sector Organisations