Toast to Fair Trade in Public Procurement

Good news for Fair Trade farmers and workers as EU Commissioner Michel Barnier and key members of the European Parliament celebrate a new EU procurement rules that make it easier to buy fair.

MEP Marc Tarabella, S&D, Belgium (left to right); MEP Linda McAvan, S&D, UK; EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier; MEP Heide Rühle, Greens, Germany; and Malcolm Harbour, ECR, UK

17 January 2014

Public authorities across Europe will now be able to make a deliberate choice for Fair Trade products along with taking other sustainability considerations into account. The new EU public procurement directive was voted today by a large majority of Members of the European Parliament, after a political agreement reached with the Council of Ministers.

The new law confirms the direction set by the Court of Justice of the European Union in the “North Holland” case ruling (Commission vs Netherlands C‑368/10), which for the first time clarified that public contracts can award additional points to products “of fair trade origin”.

The possibility to consider social aspects alongside environmental ones is a step forward from the existing rules. Furthermore, the new directive explicitly allows referring to robust certification schemes as a proof of compliance with the sustainability requirements set out in call for tenders.

To celebrate the vote, the Fair Trade Working Group in the European Parliament organized a drink with fairly-traded sparkling wine after the vote and clinked glasses with EU Commissioner Michel Barnier and leading Members of the European Parliament from various political groups.

"I have always said I believe in open borders. But trade has to be both free and fair. The two words must go together. That is the condition for successful and accepted globalization, which is genuinely in the interest of all and in particular the poorest,” said Commissioner Barnier.

“The Fair Trade working group does extremely useful work in this area, promoting these policies and I fully support Linda McAvan and her team's tireless work in this area.”

The Fair Trade movement welcomes the new text, which should reassure and encourage public authorities across Europe that already support Fair Trade farmers and workers through their purchases to continue doing so. The new EU rules will also hopefully also drive others toward the sustainable development path. The new public procurement Directive is expected to enter into force in March 2014. EU Member States will then have two years to transpose it into national law.

“The ball is now on the Members States’ court as they need to implement the changes introduced by the new EU rules into national law. Member States should use this opportunity to also put in place socially sustainable sourcing strategies that support Fair Trade,”.said Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office.

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