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Fair trade in public procurement in the EU

Image Copyright Brooke Becker, 2012.
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A growing proportion of European citizens care more and more about contributing towards sustainable economic and social development in developing countries through their purchasing preferences, notably buying fair trade.

This concern of consumers for fair trade, more common in western European Member States than in the rest of the EU, has been relayed by civil society, local authorities, and also echoed at EU level by the EU institutions, notably the European Parliament.

Public authorities in the EU can play an active role in sustainable development through their purchasing decisions, by promoting fair trade in their procedures, while respecting the fundamental principles of EU law. Some public authorities are already putting fair trade procurement into practice, by introducing fair trade considerations into the different stages of public procurement procedures.

However the EU legal framework lacks clarity as the European Parliament has repeatedly pointed out. As a result various interpretations of the legal framework exist, creating legal insecurity for contracting authorities and inhibiting expansion of fair-trade public procurement. The ongoing revision of EU public procurement directives could help bring clarity.

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