News of the guidelines follows criticism from the European ombudsman Jacob Soderman that existing rules were ‘insufficiently clear’.
The ombudsman said: ‘It was to be feared that such a state of affairs wouldprevent the [EU] Communities from achieving the measure of openness and transparency that was both desirable and necessary.’
The ambiguity over speaking to the press and making public statements has made Brussels officials uncertain about their rights after Van Buitenen fell foul of Commission authorities in 1998 over his disclosures about corruption and mismanagement.
In 1999, already serving a four-month suspension for blowing the whistle, Van Buitenen was threatened with fresh disciplinary action if he made further disclosures.
But Soderman said he had closed an inquiry into the issue following promises from the Commission that it will soon release ‘an administrative guide’ explaining and interpreting whistleblowing rules, and also would modify staff regulations requiring officials to obtain prior authorisation for publishing information about EU institutions. The new rules would ‘better define the criteria’ for a negative decision.
Paul Van Buitenen was named Accountancy Age personality of the year in 1999 for his ‘whistleblowing’ efforts.