Spain moves to protect whistleblowers

Spanish lawmakers on Thursday approved draft legislation to protect anyone who exposes serious offences or corruption cases in the public or private sector in line with a 2019 European directive.

whistleblowers spain law
The bill also sets up an external alert system for whistleblowers by creating an "independent authority for the protection of informants". (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Justice Minister Pilar Llop hailed the bill in parliament as “a very important text for the prevention of corruption and the fight against it”.

The bill, which now goes to the senate, seeks “to protect anyone who in any employment or professional context identifies and exposes serious criminal or administrative offences”.

It also includes an obligation to create an “internal reporting system” for exposing crimes that guarantees confidentiality and allows for the whistleblowers to remain anonymous.

The system must be put in place in companies with more than 50 employees as well as in public entities, political parties, unions and organisations that receive public funding.

The bill also sets up an external alert system for whistleblowers by creating an “independent authority for the protection of informants”.

It also includes legal measures to protect citizens who report crimes as well as journalists and their sources.

Such tools aim to protect whistleblowers from “unacceptable” consequences such as “contract terminations, intimidation, unfair conduct and reputational damage”.

The text also states that contractual confidentiality clauses should be rendered null and void if they restrict the right or capacity to report serious offences.

The text is in line with rules adopted by the EU in 2019 to protect whistleblowers from reprisals to ensure they are not singled out for retaliation for exposing alleged wrongdoing affecting the public.

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Spanish PM in Morocco on visit to cement ties

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez kicked off a visit to Morocco on Wednesday, on a trip aimed at mending ties following a deep diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Spanish PM in Morocco on visit to cement ties

“The better the relations are between Morocco and Spain, the better it is for Spain, for Morocco, for Europe, for business, and for the citizens of both countries,” Sánchez said at an economic forum in Rabat.

He and a dozen ministers are set to meet with top members of the Moroccan government on Thursday.

They are expected to sign some 24 deals including on encouraging Spanish investment in the kingdom and on partnerships in areas from culture and education to desalination and rail transport, Spanish government sources said.

They will also discuss irregular migration and the fight against extremism.

Spain’s North African enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta – which both border Morocco – have long been magnets for people fleeing violence and poverty across Africa, seeking refuge via the continent’s only land frontiers with the European Union.

Sánchez said the sides also aimed to “completely normalise the passage of people and goods at customs and land and sea crossing points”.

‘Positive dynamic’

Prior to his trip, Sánchez had spoken on the phone with King Mohammed VI who urged him to “consolidate the new stage of relations between Morocco and Spain”, according to a statement from the Spanish premier’s office.

Sánchez visited Morocco in April last year, drawing a line under a year-long diplomatic crisis that began easing after Madrid reversed decades of neutrality on the Western Sahara conflict to back Morocco’s position.

The crisis had begun in 2021 when Madrid allowed Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front which seeks independence for the territory of Western Sahara, to be treated for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital.

Weeks later, more than 10,000 migrants surged into Spain’s tiny Ceuta enclave as Moroccan border forces looked the other way, in an incident seen as seeking to punish Madrid.

In March last year, Madrid announced a “new stage” in relations and said it backed the North African kingdom’s plan for the Western Sahara of limited autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

King Mohammed has invited Sánchez for a higher profile state visit in future to “reinforce the positive dynamic” in their ties, according to a palace statement.

“Spain is the third-largest investor in Morocco,” Sánchez noted on Wednesday.

After resuming cooperation with the kingdom, Spain’s interior ministry reported that arrivals of irregular migrants on its territory from Morocco were down by a quarter last year compared with 2021.

Both countries faced criticism from rights groups after at least 23 migrants died during a mass attempt to enter the Melilla enclave in June 2022.

The Spanish-Morocco rapprochement comes as Moroccan politicians and media accuse France, a staunch ally of the kingdom, of “orchestrating” a European Parliament resolution critical of Morocco’s treatment of the press.

Morocco has also denied accusations of corruption involving European Parliament members.

Rabat is considered an ally in the fight against extremism.

A Moroccan suspect is being held in connection with a machete attack on two Spanish churches in the southern town of Algeciras in January.