1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

German Bundesrat shoots down whistleblower protection law

February 10, 2023

An draft law from the German government to bring the country in line with EU directives has been stopped for now. The law seeks to protect whistleblowers from facing reprisals.

Federal state representatives taking part in the Bundesrat session
Bundesrat members from the conservative opposition have rejected a proposed whistleblower protection lawImage: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/picture alliance

A draft law to introduce protective measures for whistleblowers in Germany was brought to a halt by the conservative opposition in the Bundesrat on Friday.

The move has thrown a stumbling block in front of an attempt by the coalition government to push through delayed legislation that the EU demanded be passed by 2021 at the latest.

The law would have seen companies with 50 or more employees obliged to establish a mechanism by which whistleblowers could reveal problems or criminal activity without fear of reprisals.

But the conservative opposition bloc of the Christian Democratic and the Christian Social Unions (CDU/CSU) voted against the proposals — as the parties already had done in the Bundestag.

"Whoever doesn't protect whistleblowers, protects abuse, corruption and manipulation," Green party lawmaker Irene Mihalic wrote on Twitter after the decision was announced.

Lawmakers left to decide what to do next

The Bundesrat — in some ways comparable with the US Senate — is the counterbalance to the elected German parliament, the Bundestag.

It is made up of representatives from Germany's 16 federal states, several of which are controlled by CDU/CSU-led coalitions.

The conservative bloc has criticized the draft law saying that it put too much of a burden on small companies that would have to set up new anonymous communication channels for potential whistleblowers.

Whistleblowing: Speaking truth to power

"In its current form, the law far exceeds what is necessary under European law and what makes sense," Bavaria's Justice Minister Georg Eisenreich (CSU) said, adding that small and medium companies would be burdened by fines.

But the opposition still accepts the need for a whistleblower protection law, albeit in some different form.

"We share the foundational intentions of the law," Hesse's Justice Minister Roman Poseck (CDU) said.

The Bundestag now has the option of amending the law to seek a compromise with the Bundesrat.

Bundesrat decision comes under fire

Lawmaker Sebastian Fiedler from the co-ruling Social Democrats (SPD) told the German newspaper Handelsblatt that the opposition to the law was "absurd" and that he saw no room for negotiation.

"It would therefore be conceivable for us to reintroduce the bill with the same content as soon as possible in a form not subject to approval in the Bundestag," he added, suggesting a means of bypassing Bundesrat approval.

Civil society groups also slammed the Bundesrat decision, with one of the heads of the major trade union DGB saying, "This is a sad day for all those who have the courage to report grievances such as a lack of occupational health and safety or the sale of products that are harmful to health."

Annegret Falter, chair of the Wistleblower-Netzwerk association, said the rejection by the Bundesrat would damage democracy, the rule of law and the German economy.

ab/jcg (dpa, AFP)