LuxLeaks whistleblowers in last minute bid to block trade secrets directive

Written by Martin Banks on 14 April 2016 in News
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Antoine Deltour and Edouard Perrin have written to Parliament's S&D group ahead of plenary vote on controversial trade secrets directive.

Two writers at the centre of the so called 'Luxleaks' scandal have made an 11th hour bid to block a controversial new draft EU law on trade secrets.

Antoine Deltour and Edouard Perrin wrote to Parliament's S&D group on Wednesday, 24 hours ahead of a vote in plenary on the trade secrets directive.

The directive aims to replace the existing legal patchwork with a single, clear and coherent regime for the EU. 


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Critics of the new legislation, though, say it creates excessive rights to secrecy for businesses.

Deltour, a former PwC employee, and Perrin, a French journalist, whose revelations kicked off the LuxLeaks affair, go on trial on 26 April.

They could face up to 10 years in prison. The charges include theft, breach of confidentiality and the publication of secret documents.

The revelations in the LuxLeaks affair unleashed a debate on tax policy.

The pair said that in their intervention ahead of the parliamentary vote on Thursday, they were taking personal risks two weeks before their trial starts by publicly explaining "how this directive does not protect them."

They point out that more than 250,000 citizens have asked for the directive to be rejected over the past two weeks via a petition.

Their stance is backed by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a Brussels-based group.

A spokesman for CEO said, "Due to the fact that the directive enables legal proceedings for any possession of trade secrets (the exceptions in the directive, often portrayed as an achievement, can only be applied once a court case is open), the mere threat of a court case can deter journalists from investigating."

Deltour told a Luxembourg newspaper that the Luxleaks affair has been difficult for him as well as his family, and that the professional consequences were "considerable."

He said, "But following LuxLeaks, little has changed: 16 months after the revelations were published, practices in the background remain the same."

The rapporteur for the trade secrets directive, French EPP member Constance Le Grip, was asked on Wednesday by a BBC journalist if she could promise that she was sure that journalists and whistleblowers are now fully protected and that none of them would be "condemned" by the trade secrets directive. 

Her answer was: "I am not a judge".

Despite its many critics, MEPs meeting in Strasbourg are expected to approve the directive.

According to sources, the Left (GUE/NGL), EFDD and Greens will vote against the text while the Socialists & Democrats (S&D), EPP and Europe of Nations and Freedoms are in favour. 

The Liberals (ALDE) are thought to be divided.

CEO says that by voting for such a text 10 days after the Panama Papers, MEPs "send a catastrophic message to their voters."

Their spokesman said, "Sadly, people inside the S&D group who have worked on this text are convinced that this is the best compromise they can get after months of difficult negotiations with EPP and a number of member states. 

"They have managed to convince the remaining members of the group who evidently do not know the content of the directive or its threats."

 

About the author

Martin Banks is a Brussels-based freelance journalist

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