Cypriot lawmakers passed a consolidated bill on whistleblowing protections on Thursday after years of delays and EU pressure, with the new law aimed to shield employees from retaliation after speaking up against corruption.
House representatives in the Republic of Cyprus passed a bill on Thursday 49 to 1, approving legislation said to consolidate the EU’s Whistleblowing Directive with a government-sponsored bill and offer further protections to whistleblowers at the national level.
MP Irini Charalambides, who introduced legislation for protection of whistle blowers back in 2016, said she was happy after parliament approved the bill.
“From now on whistleblowers in Cyprus are not required to choose to talk to police or the attorney general, but they could talk to others including the House,” Charalambides said.
Back in November ahead of a deadline set by the EU, Charalambides led a team of legislators to the Justice Ministry, urgently asking to review texts line-by-line and compare whistleblowing protections in an EU directive against proposed legislation to ensure compatibility.
She told state radio on Friday morning that the previous version of the government bill proposal did not go far enough, suggesting the language in the original text in some cases even muddled the terms whistleblowers and witnesses.
But on Friday Charalambides went on to thank Justice Minister Stefi Drakou for managing to consolidate the European directive with national legislation. Reports said Drakou had consolidated two bill proposals based on EU directives with the Charalambides bill and another amendment co-authored by the MP and the legal committee.
“Cyprus is a small place and people had a valid reason to be afraid of blowing the whistle,” the MP said, while calling on NGO groups, government agencies, and parliament to mount campaigns to inform the public about their whistleblower protections.
Justice Minister Stefi Drakou also spoke on state radio Friday morning, acknowledging previous delays but also saying there was a lot of work recently behind the scenes to implement the EU’s Whistleblowing Directive and offer further protections to whistleblowers at the national level.
“This is a great start, a big step forward in combating corruption,” Drakou said, while also thanking House legal committee chairman Nicos Tornaritis for rushing the bill and Charalambides for her leadership role in the effort.
Cyprus has been among EU member states that made little or no progress on the issue.
An EU directive had called on member states to put in place “minimum standards” in an effort for the entire bloc to establish uniform protections for whistleblowers or “reporting persons” who report or publicly disclose information on breaches acquired in the context of their own work-related activities.