Wednesday, October 3, 2012

European Parliament hosts Fair Trade Breakfast on Public Procurement

On October 3, 2012, The European Parliament Fair Trade Working Group has successfully organised its annual Fair Trade Breakfast for the third time. Over breakfast, discussions have taken place on how the future European Union (EU) public procurement rules can empower public authorities to chose Fair Trade and ensuring access to the public EU procurement market for developing country producers.

The event has taken place in the context of the Fair Trade week in Belgium - an initiative of the Belgium Development Agency (BTC). The breakfast meeting has focused on the revision of the public procurement Directive and the initiative on the access of third country goods and services to the EU public procurement market. The event has been attended by Ambassadors from Fair Trade producing countries such as Bolivia, Colombia and Vietnam, as well as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all political groups, representatives from the European Commission and the permanent representation of European Union Member States, as well as Fair Trade movement actors.

The breakfast has been hosted by Sirpa Pietikaïnen, member of the Fair Trade Working Group, a cross-party group of MEPs working together for EU policies in support of Fair Trade. While enjoying a Fair Trade breakfast, participants had the opportunity to listen to Bruce Crowther's experience as the founder of the Fair Trade Towns campaign. One of the main features of this campaign, which brings together over 1000 towns, is their commitment by these towns to purchase Fair Trade products.

A key issue in the debate has been the need for the future EU public procurement Directive, being currently revised, to provide a sound legal framework to introduce Fair Trade criteria, in line with a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice. Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office stated “the future EU public procurement rules should not prevent public authorities from making the legitimate choice to require compliance with Fair Trade criteria”.

With regards to the access of third country goods to the EU public procurement market, “the overarching choice of contracting authorities to achieve best value for money should not be undermined” Sergi Corbalán concluded.

The European Parliament is a long-lasting supporter of EU policies in support of Fair Trade. In September 2011, the parliament passed a rresolution on a New Trade Policy for Europe under the Europe 2020 Strategy where it calls again for the ‘European Commission to ensure coordinated policies in support of Fair Trade. The President of the European Parliament, Mr. Martin Schulz, reiterated this support during this year’s World Fair Trade Day.

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