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Transparency International calls on Germany to step up whistle-blower safeguards

The anti-corruption organization Transparency International has called on Berlin to provide better safeguards to whistle-blowers. A new report says that Germany is in the middle of pack in Europe on the issue.

The report, unveiled by Edda Müller, the head of the German branch of Transparency International at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday, found that Germany was lacking in terms of protections for employees who point out wrongdoing at their places of work.

The countries that did the best, she said, were Britain, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Romania.

Germany, she said, was among a group of 15 European Union countries that provides limited protection to whistle-blowers. For most German employees, she said, the legal situation was not clear. Only a certain class of civil servants she added, enjoy sufficient protections, and by the nature of these positions, they are actually required to report any alleged wrongdoing they find to the appropriate authorities.

Müller, though, declined to outline how improved protection for whistle-blowers should be achieved.

“The main thing is that our legal framework encourages and rewards civic courage, instead of impeding the disclosure of such cases,” she said.

Müller noted that in Germany around 60 percent of financial crimes such as corruption, tax evasion or money laundering came to light through the actions of employees.

A call to protect Snowden

She also used the press conference to call on Chancellor Angela Merkel's next coalition government to provide protection to Edward Snowden and make it possible for him to testify before a parliamentary committee in Germany. Müller said Transparency International regarded the idea of having Snowden give testimony in Russia as highly problematic, due to fears that this could affect his asylum status.

On Monday, Merkel's spokesman indicated that Snowden didn't qualify for asylum in Germany, despite calls from the opposition Greens and the Left to bring him to the country. Most parliamentarians, though, do want Snowden to testify in front of a parliamentary committee into the NSA affair, which has strained relations between the United States and many of its European allies. The question that remains is how and where this should happen.

Documents leaked by Snowden, a former subcontractor with the US National Security Agency (NSA), have revealed allegations of mass surveillance of Germans by the NSA, including tapping into Merkel's cellular phone.Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats, who fell just short of winning a majority in the September general election, are in negotiations with the Social Democrats towards the formation of a “grand coalition” government.

pfd/dr (Reuters, dpa, epd)