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«The London School of Economics and Political Science Wine In Their Veins: France and the European Community’s Common Wine Policy, 1967-1980 Maria ...»

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The French worried that the Commission’s rather liberal attitude towards the use of distillation in the case of high yields (which is itself an expensive measure) would encourage an ‘intensive production of mediocre wine.’15 The French claimed that without efforts to curb the large surpluses sure to rise from new plantings, without certain rules regarding quality standards and limitation of planting, and without sufficient protection of the market and pricing, the result would be disastrous for the Community. The French were not wrong to have been concerned about the impending consequences of a liberal policy for the 'S/967/1968 CSA 272: Position de la délégation française à l'égard de l'establissement d'une politique commune viti-vinicole.' November 11, 1968. CM2 1970/638, CMA.

Ibid.d Community as a whole, but this attitude stemmed as well from a concern far closer to home.

A liberal policy with no restrictions on planting would certainly have been great trouble for them further down the line with the production trends in France’s southern vineyards; even the inclusion of some sort of built-in price support system of a future CWP, which would mean subsidies would for the country’s farmers, would be unlikely to adequately abet the situation of further projected rises in production.

There was good evidence that the increase of production in both France and Italy over the previous decade was symptomatic of a systemic overproduction as a result of domestic welfare policies within both Italy and France, with Italian encouragement of the development of rural areas and the continued French protection of wine-growers in the Midi, who produced a great deal of the poor quality table wines against which French themselves were arguing. (It was, interestingly enough, the Germans who through 1968 and 1969 repeatedly try to argue that this was the case, and were rebuffed by the other two.) The French at times used Brussels as a place to dump unpopular domestic problems they could then later say would have to be pursued in the name of being European. It would seem later that the French government intentionally wanted to develop a more restrictive policy on planting at Brussels and not in Paris so as to avert in part potential blame from vignerons; the effort of the French government to ‘discourage the cultivation of inferior grapes was a political and not a scientific one: [it was] the need to curb the subsidies that drained the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture.’16 Loubère, The Wine Revolution in France, 263.

In response to continued problems with negotiations, a series of CSA meetings in November 1968 were reserved for the wine policy negotiations,17 where the frustrated Germans suggested a simple, basic coordination of national legislation, akin to a customs union, as a first step for the wine market. Both France and Italy were committed to the process of creating a full, proper CMO; they refused a partial integration, citing the relative importance of wine to their countries and to Community integration as a whole. Domestically, the French faced pressure from wine cooperatives, which had started to become relatively well-organised through the 1960s, and who would have been particularly displeased with a loose, unstructured policy at a time when prices and consumption of table wine were falling. The suggestion by the Commission representative at the meeting that it might become necessary to simply copy-and-paste the more technocratic models from the organisation of the markets of other major agricultural sectors was ignored by other representatives. Despite the many pressing difficulties, the central line was still that ‘organisation of a common market for wine is indispensable for completing the integration of the agricultural economies of the Six member states’.18

–  –  –

The problem of reaching agreement on pricing was the major sticking point from November 1968 onward. At the beginning of 1969, reaching a sound agreement on pricing mechanisms for wine seemed to be out-of-reach. The model proposed by the Commission at the time was a loose price support system complemented with supplementary price supports, safeguard clauses, and a Community tariff. The Germans, along with the Belgian and Dutch CM2 1970/638, various documents on and related to the November 6 & 7 and November 18, 19, 20, 1978 meetings.

'S/967/1968 CSA 272: Position de la délégation française à l'égard de l'establissement d'une politique commune viti-vinicole.' November 11, 1968. CM2 1970/638, CMA.

representatives, found even this basic system to be too much – they expressed their ‘réserve plus approfondi des mécanismes’ and went on to state they were ‘pas convaincues de la nécessité de prendre [ces] mesures.’19 To the Germans, the measures taken for the wine policy ought to be more ‘à caractère conservatoire’20 than the current Commission proposals.

This was at stark odds with the French position – that the system in its current conception was not nearly wide-ranging or incisive enough, as yet ‘insuffisante aux objectifs d’une politique viti-vinicole commune’, and further to this did not contain any steps in the direction of the promotion of quality in the wine industry.

On January 15, 1969, the Secretariat General prepared a summary of the major points of contention amongst delegates regarding the wine negotiations.22 The four key issues still requiring resolution were first, what the guiding objective or objectives of the wine policy ought to be (would it be balancing production and demand, following a policy of quality, or administratively directing production policy?); second, what the links should be between the market organisation, the harmonisation of existing legislation, the regulation of quality wines, and the organisation of a market for alcohol more broadly speaking; third, how to arrange the trade regime with non-Community countries; and fourth, what legal form the market organisation for wine should take (should it be a common market organisation, or, as the Germans continued to suggest, a ‘simple coordination des organismes nationaux’23?). In addition to this list of difficult conceptual problems at the top of the fifth year of negotiations 'S/1034/68 (CSA 293)', Proposals for a regulation laying down additional provisions for the common organisation of the wine market and the report of the Groupe de travail 'Vins' to the Comité spécial Agriculture on the system of production pricing. CM2 1970/639, CMA.

'R/2025/68 (AGRI 696)', Proposals for a regulation laying down additional provisions for the common organisation of the wine market and the report of the Comité spécial Agriculture to the Council. November 22,

1968. CM2 1970/638, CMA.

'S/1034/68 (CSA 293)', Proposals for a regulation laying down additional provisions for the common organisation of the wine market and the report of the Groupe de travail 'Vins' to the Comité spécial Agriculture on the system of production pricing. CM2 1970/639, CMA.

Points for the order of the day, Sécretariat général du Conseil. January 15, 1969. CM2 1970/639, CMA.


was the difficult technical problem of how to manage the ‘régularisation du marché communautaire’ for while all delegations agreed in principle with interventions of some sort, ‘des divergences profondes sont cependant apparues en ce qui concerne l’ampleur, la nature et le caractère des mécanismes à prévoir.’24 At this meeting, the matter of whether or not overproduction was a potential problem in future was heavily debated. The French delegation, supported on this point by the Germans, argued that overproduction was a great possibility and could only be averted with strict Community control emphasising quality of vines and terroirs – this uniquely French word, when applied to wine, encompassed such diverse aspects as geology and climate, such as sun, slope, soil composition, precipitation, and is tied together in a particular locality which gives it a sense of ‘place.’ This word is usually used in the context of quality wines. The French were adamant that a system not be designed in which there was ‘une sous-protection pour les vins de qualité et une sur-protection pour les vins médiocres’.25 The French were insistent on this point, as they had been since the beginning of negotiations, for the national mandate issued to them had itself been particularly resolute on the same issue. The French stance during all negotiations was set by the Secrétariat général du comité interministériel pour les questions de coopération économique européenne (SGCI), the Parisbased national governmental body that liaised with different relevant French ministries to coordinate the official French line in Community institutions. Even if its detractors claimed it was not particularly transparent – one commentator quipped it was ‘une officine Ibid.

'R/77/69 (AGRI 25)', Proposals for a regulation laying down additional provisions for the common organisation of the wine market and the state of work in the Council and issues submitted to it by the Comité spécial Agriculture. January 15, 1969. CM2 1970 639, CMA.

administrative au rôle inconnu et à l’importance considérable’26 – the SGCI, staffed predominantly by those from the Ministry of Finance, was the reason why French coordination and consistency of goals in the European Commission was widely considered the most efficient of the member states.27 In fact, it was the strict rule that ‘French ministries were not allowed to accept agendas of meetings in Brussels without the agreement of the SGCI’,28 despite the fact that it did not have official decision-making powers. The SGCI had most recently set the formal agenda on wine negotiations by stating that delegates were to make three points clear: first, that, given the French overview of their own domestic situation, overproduction was likely and could degenerate quickly – but delegates were to make this point about the Community situation in general (that is to say, they should also argue that this could happen in Italy); second, that production had to be limited at all costs, but this point might have to be made in a nuanced way because the Commission had taken the line along with the Italians that planting should be allowed to continue freely; and third, that the French delegates were to counter any continued German demands against comprehensive, built-in Community intervention measures in wine with the line that it needed to be ‘communautaires et obligatoires.’29 The document urgently noted that ‘la délégation allemande soutient, d’autre part, que le Conseil avait décidé, lors de l’adaptation du règlement financier, en mai 1966, que l’organisation commune du marché du vin ne ferait pas l’objet d’un financement communautaire’.30 This was unacceptable for the French, for their aim was to transfer policyJean-Luc Sauron, L’administration française et l’Union européenne (Paris: La Documentation française, 2000), 85.

N. Piers Ludlow, 'The Making of the CAP: Towards a Historical Analysis of the EU's First Major Policy,' Contemporary European History 14, no. 3 (2005): 352.

Knudsen, Farmers on Welfare: The Making of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy, 87.

'Conseil des ministres des Communautés Européennes des 25 et 26 novembre 1968 - Agriculture', Secrétaire Général du Comité Interministériel. November 22, 1968. Affaires économiques et financières: Coopération économique, 714 (1967-1975). AD.


making power, and in particular the hefty and difficult financing of their national wine industry, to the Community institutions. The document pressed delegates to make the point that the May 1966 resolution ‘laisse…entièrement ouverte la possibilité d’un financement communautaire.’31 The Italians argued instead that reaching equilibrium between production and consumption was possible, and that the other delegations were setting a dangerous precedent by trying to limit planting rights, declaring that this would be an attack on Italy’s cultural, economic, and social sensibilities.32 In response, the Commission representative stated that the Commission was not unwilling to adopt temporary ‘mesures contraignantes’ to help alleviate an imbalance, but stated that the position of the Commission was that ‘elle considérait qu’une telle situation de déséquilibre n’existait pas encore.’33 The solution the frustrated parties found was to intervene on a case-by-case basis; this mechanism was unique to the wine market as other similar common markets had automatic interventions.

The negotiations for pricing on the cereals market were infamously complicated as well, and negotiators did not arrive at case-by-case pricing. Why did this happen in the wine market?

There was in part considerable pressure to arrive at a solution quickly, and thereby, more pressure to relinquish national goals in favour of compromise, because the wine market was the last of the original markets left to be unified. The free circulation of wine within the Six was meant to be in effect from November 1969; further to this, earnest and intensive enlargement negotiations were planned for the 1970s, and it was incumbent to have the markets running before then, including this final problem child. This also made the eventual Ibid.

'R/77/69 (AGRI 25)', Proposals for a regulation laying down additional provisions for the common organisation of the wine market and the state of work in the Council and issues submitted to it by the Comité spécial Agriculture. January 15, 1969. CM2 1970 639, CMA.


CWP much more prone to criticism and open attack because it required incisive ‘hands-on’ action each time pricing became problematic as it could not depend on automatic interference like other markets.

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