The Romanian Constitutional Court (CCR) unanimously rejected, on Wednesday, the USR’s notification over the Law on the protection of whistleblowers in the public interest.
The amendments brought to the law by the legal commission from the Chamber of Deputies, at the proposal of the PSD deputy Laura Vicol, discourage the reporting of acts of corruption and limit the rights of integrity whistleblowers.
The law was under harsh criticism by civil society and the head of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, Laura Codruța Kovesi. She announced that she is considering a notification to the European Commission for the activation of the mechanism for conditioning European funds by the rule of law in Romania.
USR notified CCR about this law on the grounds that “the form imposed by the PSD-PNL-UDMR coalition considerably weakens the protection of persons who want to reveal irregularities in public institutions and raises considerable obstacles in obtaining funds from PNRR”.
The complaint alleges four arguments of unconstitutionality, including the violation of the obligations assumed at the time of accession to the European Union and the lack of clarity and predictability of some provisions. USR considers that the normative act contravenes the EU Directive it was intended to transpose – Directive 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons reporting breaches of EU law.
The directive prohibits its transposition into national law from reducing the level of protection already granted to a whistleblower. According to USR, the PSD-PNL-UDMR law “does exactly that” – it decreases the protection offered to people who want to report irregularities.
Also, USR invokes the violation of the provisions of art. 15 of the Constitution regarding the theory of “earned right”, claiming that the protection offered to whistleblowers of integrity is diminished below the current level conferred by Law no. 571/2004 on the protection of personnel from public authorities, public institutions and other units that report violations of the law.
The Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers in the Public Interest targets persons who report violations of the law. The draft, initiated by the Government, establishes the general framework for the protection of persons who report violations of the law, which have occurred or are likely to occur within the authorities, public institutions, other legal entities under public law, as well as within the persons private law.
Moreover, USR asked President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday to resubmit the integrity warning law for re-examination of the Parliament, because Romania risks running out of European money from the Resilience and Recovery Plan, Union leader Cătălin Drulă said on Wednesday.
“Due to the desire of Marcel Ciolacu, Klaus Iohannis and Nicolae Ciucă to capture justice and eliminate the voices that detect acts of corruption, Romania risks running out of money from PNRR, as announced by the head of the European Prosecutor’s Office, Laura Codruța Koveși (…) I call on President Klaus Iohannis to urgently return the law on integrity warnings to Parliament. In its current form, the law discourages the disclosure of acts of corruption and risks leaving Romania without European money,” Drula said.
On the other hand, in their ruling, the constitutional judges argued that the law “enshrines an appropriate standard of protection”.
“In essence, the Court has ruled that the role of the whistleblower is to disclose and communicate offenses committed within an organization. This communication is made either through an internal / external reporting at the level of the respective organization, or through public disclosure. The legislator has chosen that the internal / external reporting and public disclosure activities be carried out successively, and not simultaneously, protecting both the entity that is the object of the law and the state of legality in which it must carry out its activity.
Therefore, the law regulates the conduct of the whistleblower, without affecting his ability to publicly disclose the information subject to the law and without prejudice to the provisions on the rules of criminal procedure regarding the notification of criminal prosecution bodies. Such procedural rules only strengthen the role of the whistleblower in society and make him responsible in his work.
The establishment of a procedure in carrying out the activity of public reporting / disclosure of information falling within the scope of application of the law, as well as the delimitation according to objective criteria of some stages related to this activity are without prejudice to the legal protection of the integrity warning. At the same time, the Court ruled that the new regulations, establishing protection, support and remedial measures for the benefit of the whistleblower, enshrine an adequate standard of its legal protection.
The decision is final and generally binding”, CCR press release says.