Not all trade is fair trade: EU regions and cities call for European Fair Trade Strategy

​Barbara Duden

During the 112 th plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) representatives of EU regions and cities express their support for fair trade. In the opinion drafted by Barbara Duden (DE/PES) on fair trade, Vice-President of Hamburg City Parliament, they call for a common European strategy for fair trade as well as the creation of a "European fair trade capital/region" award.

The volume of trade in certified fair trade products and its promotion at local and regional level have increased substantially in the EU over the years and by now more than 1500 towns have declared themselves 'fair trade towns'. Also the recognition of and support for fair trade by the European citizens has improved. Yet levels of awareness vary widely between different EU Member States. While in northern and western Europe more than 50% of the population is familiar with the fair trade mark, awareness in eastern and central European countries is much lower.

The CoR is a long-standing supporter of the concept of fair trade, which means that workers and farmers at the beginning of the production chain get a fair share of the benefits, and is now renewing its call for an EU Fair Trade Strategy already voiced in a 2010 opinion. The aim of such a strategy would not only be to help raising awareness among citizens, but also to facilitate a consistent and coordinated approach supporting fair trade across all EU policy areas and particularly in the international trade negotiations, development, agricultural policy and notably EU regulation of public procurement.

CoR rapporteur Barbara Duden sees the European year for development as an opportunity to put the topic on the EU agenda and make it a key component of both the EU's post-2015 development policy and the EU's future trade policy. More concretely, she proposes the introduction of a "European fair trade capital/region" following the example of the "German capital of fair trade" – an idea which has been received with great interest by EU trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. Barbara Duden points out that, "in Germany, many of the good practices supporting fair trade are encouraged by cities and regions. The contest run by the 'Communities in one World' Service Agency has been very successful in scaling up the efforts of German cities in this area and allowing them to exchange experiences and to learn from each other. The EU should follow this model to further encourage local and regional authorities in this respect".

In support of the opinion, the CoR has published a study on the promotion of fair trade by regions and cities of the EU. The study contains various local and regional approaches to fair trade, an evaluation of potential obstacles and a selection of best practice examples.