European public authorities will be able to preferentially choose Fair Trade products, after a majority of MEPs voted in favour of a new public procurement directive last week.
EU rules governing public procurement traditionally have stressed value for money, according to the Commission, but it said in a memo that they should also be an instrument to encourage innovation and ‘green’ procurement.
Commissioner Barnier said in a statement: "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.”
Fairtrade International has welcomed the new rules, which allow its certification schemes to be used as proof of compliance with the sustainability requirements set out in calls for tenders. It said the directive should “reassure and encourage public authorities across Europe that already support Fair Trade farmers and workers through their purchases to continue doing so”, and encourage others to take a similar approach.
“The new rules will contribute to the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy for a greener, more social, innovative and inclusive economy,” the Commission said. “…Contracting authorities will decide if they want to take advantage of the new possibilities put at their disposal.”
The directive will come into effect in March this year, and Member States will then have two years to bring it into national law.
Executive director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office Sergi Corbalán said: “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.”