The Award was open to cities meeting the following criteria

1. Cities in EU member states
For the purposes of the Award, a city is defined as an urban area (not including metropolitan areas) and a local administrative unit governed by a city council or another form of democratically elected body that covers the urban centre. Only cities within EU member states are eligible to apply.

2. Cities with populations above 20,000
This threshold maintains the focus of the Award on cities, while also ensuring inclusivity. In countries which do not have at least three cities with 20,000 inhabitants, the country’s three largest cities are eligible to apply. Entrants can differ significantly in size, which is taken into account in the context considerations when assessing the applications.

3. Reapplication is possible after a waiting period
Past Award winners are welcome to apply again for the Award after a waiting period of one Award cycle. Cities that were awarded ‘Special Mentions’ and any other applicant cities may re-apply immediately in the subsequent edition as there is no waiting period for those cities. However, ‘Special Mention’ cities will not be considered for competition in the same category that they won in the previous cycle as there is a waiting period of one Award cycle for being able to win the same category again.

The Award is governed by the following rules of participation

1. Application and participation are free of charge
There are no fees for submitting the application and no direct costs for taking part in the competition.

2. Local authorities are authorized submit applications
The application may be initiated by any representative from the city government or any other stakeholder in the city such as civil society organizations or businesses. The latter are encouraged to nominate their city by starting the application or collecting the necessary information. However, nominations need to be accepted by the local city government, which has to complete and submit the application.

3. The application must contain a completed Mayoral Declaration
In order for the application to be complete and valid, it must contain a completed Mayoral Declaration, signed and stamped by the signatory authorized by national law to legally represent the city. This is typically the Mayor or Deputy-Mayor of the city, and/or other senior political representatives in charge of international cooperation or sustainable development. In cases where the Mayor is not the signatory, the applicant city must provide an explanation of the signatory’s power of authority.

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The EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award is an initiative of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade implemented by the International Trade Centre.