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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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In early 1969, the situation looked bleak. The Commission and Council sustained a long discussion on the definition of the word ‘wine’. The FAO remarked that the Community’s common wine policy as it stood ‘has indeed made very little progress and the major problems remain still to be resolved.’34 The Council continued to express doubts about the Commission’s proposal, citing problems with the application of appropriate measures for production policy, the character of protectionist import measures, and the measures to balance a common wine market. In the midst of difficulties, greater clarity was achieved by splitting issues of concern into general problems and technical problems, which allowed the delegation of in-depth and now extensive technical matters to the Commission and Council’s own individual expert wine groups, which had been confusing and laborious for nonspecialists to discuss. At the tail end of the previous year, this mandate had been explicitly conferred to the Groupe de travail ‘Vins’ by the Comité spécial Agriculture at the Groupe’s meeting of November 25, 1968 for the purposes of allowing the latter to take charge of making ‘une étude approfondie des aspects techniques’35 of the wine policy proposals. But the real breakthrough, though it came reluctantly, was when Germany helped France and Italy take steps towards a compromise on pricing mechanisms and financial aspects of the CWP in early 1970.

Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, 'The World Wine and Vine Products Economy: A study of trends and problems,' Commodity Bulletin Series (Rome1969), 21.

'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.

It was not until February 1970 that the Council approved the Commission proposal, announcing that after negotiations which were ‘wearisome, often profitless, and largely dominated by a clash of national interests’, they were reaching the end and that the implementation of what would be regulation 816/70 was close at hand. But this they did without particularly satisfying anyone, least of all France, whose desire to keep the Community’s vineyard to its current size had been quashed. To get Italian agreement on financing meant France made greater concessions, resulting in a much more liberal regime that allowed both free trade and free production of wine. In mid-April 1970, the process looked like it would fall apart again, during a very stormy meeting in which the Italian proposals to ban the addition of sugar to grape to increase alcoholic content was met with fierce resistance by both the French and Germans, who both used chaptalisation with some of their best-selling wines.

In the end, five major agreement areas were in regulation 816/70 which set down common rules for the organisation in the Community’s market in wine. The first was prices and intervention – it was agreed that price fixing would only be done for table wines, and that quality wines would not be subjected to such a process. Rules concerning production and control of planting enshrined the freedom to plant. High import rates were imposed on trade with none-EC countries, as well as more stringent regulations on the type of wine that could be imported. Blending of EC wines with non-EC wines was strictly banned. The final two rules were about oenological processes and general provisions, such as definitions. One particularly important arrangement was the division of Europe’s vineyards into five geographical categories, as outlined in the following table.

–  –  –

The Commission welcomed the birth of the CWP in April 1970 with this announcement:

‘Given these different [national] interests, often diametrically opposed, a single approach to the wine market problem was only possible because all sides made considerable concessions.

Growers in Italy, France, and Germany are bitterly critical of the Council’s resolution: they all feel that their own Government has given too much ground. It might be said indeed that everyone is equally dissatisfied, which proves that the agreement by the Ministers is a

–  –  –

2965/X/70-E: The Background to the Common Organisation of the Market in Wine, 1970. European Commission. Luxembourg: Division for Agricultural Information in collaboration with Directorate-General for Agriculture.

Three themes emerge from tracing the arc of the negotiations over the Common Wine Policy.

These were the lucky well-timed external pressures which forced a coordination of the attitude of the Six, the pressure to complete the agricultural project bringing the French and Italians to a disgruntled compromise on the issue of wine, and a persistence in seeking a common market structure, despite repeated setbacks and suggestions of a simpler customs union, which was based on the unqualified but largely unchallenged belief that wine was integral to the Community agricultural project. What had significant bearing on the tone of the wine negotiations, however, were a series of decisions taken many years earlier, while the Common Agricultural Policy’s structure was being established. Earlier discussions from 1957–1962 on the Common Agricultural Policy eventually came to centre around ‘prevent[ing] farm incomes from falling more and more behind incomes in other sectors’ and addressing the ‘disequilibrium between production and consumption…problems which have become almost insoluble within the frontiers of a single state’.37 Likewise, as Member of Belgian Parliament Maurice Van Hemelrijck from the Belgian Christian Social Party stated, in attempting to explain the principles underpinning discussions on the future European agricultural project, Le fonctionnement et le développement du Marché commun doit, pour l'agriculture, aller de pair avec une politique agricole commune. Grâce à cette politique agricole commune, on espère développer la productivité de l'agriculture, assurer un niveau de vie équitable à la population agricole, stabiliser les marchés, garantir l'approvisionnement alimentaire et assurer des prix raisonnables de livraison au consommateur. On tiendra compte, dans l'élaboration de la politique agricole commune, du caractère spécial de la production agricole dû à la structure sociale de l'agriculture….38 The language used and ideas generated during this earlier time set into motion the increasing legitimacy of a discourse that was based on ensuring that farmers’ incomes did not fall further behind those in other sectors. In particular, the discourse included the need for the Bulletin of the European Economic Community, No 3, 1962. Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.





Maurice Van Hemelrijck, 'Le Marché commun et l'agriculture,' La Revue politique (March 1957).

preservation of the family farm as a recognised component of any European agricultural order that was to be established, which was to be pursued through various measures like price support and balancing consumption and production. These early ideas pushed a social policy agenda onto the stage, and by the time serious discussions began on the creation of a common wine policy, the environment created by these prior discussions added pressure to the course of the wine negotiations, while also limiting their scope.39 This, for instance, was why the technocratic ‘copy-and-paste’ offered by the Commission was unacceptable. It would not have addressed the social policy aspect as it related to the wine industry, for the industry operated in a more complicated fashion than the other sectors. This also explains the unique mechanisms within the Community market for wine. For example, the automatic pricing and intervention schemes which were an essential and basic part of the milk and cereals markets, were not used in the wine market. Wine was far more subject to variations in both annual harvest sizes and in market fluctuations, which taken together made it a more volatile agricultural market than its comparable cousins.

–  –  –

The Common Wine Policy was difficult to negotiate because of three major reasons – first, wine was not a good fit with the rest of the products for which common markets were being created, second, agreed best practices for wines in Europe were lacking, making compromise particularly difficult, and third, tension existed between economic and political imperatives, which exposed broader uncertainties about the goals of the Common Agricultural Policy.

A full treatment of this argument is contained in Knudsen, Farmers on Welfare: The Making of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy.

The inclusion of wine amongst those agricultural products for which markets were being created was not a good fit. Part of the difficulty of creating the wine market lay in the fact that wine was a different creature to the rest. Though this was never quite so explicitly stated, it was clear this was the case in both the delay of the project and the statements in the first half of the 1960s decrying the fact that ‘la création du marché unique [du vin]… sera de nature à atténuer ces difficultés’ not least because ‘organisées sur une base nationale, conformément à la situation propre à chacun des pays, les économies viticoles des Etats membres sont diffèrents considérablement entre elles.40 Wine’s difference to the other agricultural products which were to have analogous markets to it is most obvious when looking at its most closely related agricultural markets, which were those for milk and cereal, the former of which suffered through the milk lake and butter mountain, akin to the headache-inducing wine lake. Even then, there were important differences. While milk and cereal are base agricultural products, wine is not – it is a processed product. Grapes that were to be converted to wine could simply have remained with their grapes-for-eating brethren under the fruit and legumes market. In contrast, milk has a common market, but its derivatives cheese or butter do not.41 One particularly compelling reason to believe that the wine industry was accorded a special kind of place in the pantheon of Europe’s agricultural products because of its identity was that a market was created for it amongst these other base agricultural products and to the exclusion of one or several alcohol markets.

'Communauté Economique Européenne - Réglement portant etablissement graduel d'une organisation commune des marchés dans le domaine viti-vinicole - final.' July 24, 1961. CM2 1962 620 ac, Consilium Archives.

There were and are some limited regulations on butter under the Community’s milk policy, and to a lesser degree, cheese, but they were no market organisations for them.

One commonality to most wine growing in Western Europe is the practice of monoculturalism, which made those in the wine growing profession particularly vulnerable.

A bad harvest would represent a devastating loss of revenue for those who had no other sources of income or had not diversified with other crops. This was a particularly acute in the region of Languedoc, where a large percentage of the economy of the region was tied up with the wine industry. Most other farming sectors were hybrids and those who had such operations were sometimes derogatorily-termed ‘polyculturists’ by Midi vignerons. As M.

Soulié, a vigneron in the south of France commented, The viticulturalist, in monoculture, is more open, more evolved than the polyculturist. We, the viticulturists, we work to produce and we’re in search of improving that production. The polyculturist who grows three or four crops, there’s always some disappointment; he can’t advance his research, his reflection, as we can advance ours, to always do better...produce better. Governmental projects want us to be come polyculturists, because monoculture is quite dangerous in a system like ours where there’s no guarantee, no minimum [income] to live, because in socialist countries the state intervenes. But here, when there’s a bad harvest, it’s explosive.42 A frequent occurrence was that those who produced milk, even chiefly, would do so often in combination with something else, such as raising pigs or poultry (with the notable exception of dairying in mountainous regions, which tended to be small-scale monoculturalist pursuits yielding low income.) These polyculturists also tended to join and be represented by general agricultural groups, like the powerful Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Exploitants d'Agricoles (FNSEA), which the Midi vignerons in particular eschewed. In fact, in spite of FNSEA’s considerable status and growth during the 1960s and 1970s, ‘the wine growers [of the Languedoc] did not feel as if they belonged to this organization and participated little in its initiatives’.43 Loubère et al., The Vine Remembers, 174.

Martin, 'Wine Growers' Syndicalism in the Languedoc: Continuity and Change,' 337.

The different measures taken for the milk and cereals markets did not politicise them to the same degree as similar measures for the wine market. Part of the reason for this was that the introduction of quotas had a fairly immediate effect in the intended direction: the quotes halted what had been a continuous increase in milk deliveries, but without effecting a dramatic decline, thereby averting a potential backlash from dairy farmers.44 But even more important than this was that the wine market was more complicated and exposed than the other agricultural markets (though fruits, particularly in the Mediterranean, were a strong contender for such a position too.) Wine as a whole was more exposed to global processes and pricing than any other sector with a common agricultural market. Table wine and quality wine alike were more exposed to international pressures and determinants impacting the endprice of their product,45 while the same was not true for milk, meats, or cereals. The lack of consistency in pricing or of the stability of markets in wine, which was more readily-achieved in the previous markets, perpetuated in many ways the ‘feast and famine’46 cycle of wine.



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