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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 response to this issue, the Agricultural Council largely focused on the wine issue at their April 15 meeting, in which they conducted a detailed discussion of the short-term economic and structural problems and agreed that the wine issue needed to ‘hav[e] priority.’86 In this meeting, it was decided that to deal with the overloading of the French market, the Council should permit a round of table wine distillation from June 7 to July 31; in a panic, on May 7, the Commission moved the distillation period back to May 12 to June 5 in hopes of settling the market faster.87 The Council also began to suggest that distillation could not be a permanent solution but that it was an ‘exceptional measure...to permit a rapid improvement’,88 a concession, given its position that distillation and the promotion of quality wine production could help fix the imbalance issue. It also agreed with the Commission on the need to shift its focus to regulations regarding planting to ‘prevent the formation of structural surpluses’89 but it spoke very vaguely and non-committally about it: what was needed were ‘general options...for wine in the years ahead’ and ‘new guidelines to rebalance the market...focus[ed] on putting production growth on a sound footing and enhancing quality.’90 The Council’s primary aim was still ‘to secure a finer balance between supply and demand by improving the intervention system...to be consolidated by other measures.’ It was still of the opinion that this problem was cyclical, despite the new ‘cyclical versus structural 337th Council Meeting on Agriculture, 462 c/75 (Presse 43), Council of the European Communities General Secretariat, Luxembourg.

Bulletin of the European Communities, No 5, 8th year, Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.

337th Council Meeting on Agriculture, 462 c/75 (Presse 43), Council of the European Communities General Secretariat, Luxembourg.

Bulletin of the European Communities, No 4, 8th year. Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.


problem’ debate that had sprung up over the course of April in the various Community organs.91 The Council also made the surprising declaration that a rise in the per capita consumption in the Netherlands, along with the three new Member States, ‘has simply offset the fall in the main consumer countries, France and Italy.’92 But as discussed before, this was not the case. It decided that the new measures, very vaguely delimited, would be in place by August 1, 1975.

In meetings through June and July, the Commission members made concerted efforts to tackle the issue of wine. Lardinois drew up a proposal to halt new planting of vines until July 1, 1977, and fixed new prices for preventative distillation.93 However, there were growing concerns about the soundness of the principles of the CWP. In restricted meeting minutes, German Commissioner Wilhelm Haferkamp considered it of central importance to discuss modifying ‘the very principles’94 of the CWP, given the consistent problem with surpluses;

he did not think the Commission’s recommendations to the Council for another distillation round went far enough. The resultant debate demonstrated the Commissioners were not of one mind about this. A similar situation was faced by the Parliament, which had a furious debate over the Commission’s proposals. Dissatisfaction was rife; parliamentarians called the proposals ‘inconsistent and inadequate’, ‘absurd and impracticable’; some welcomed the attempt at planting control, while several Italian Parliamentarians opposed them and did not believe they would be effective.95 337th Council Meeting on Agriculture, 462 c/75 (Presse 43), Council of the European Communities General Secretariat, Luxembourg., No. 189, Sittings of April 7-11, 1975, Debates of the European Parliament., and Procès-verbaux 334, séance du 8 avril 1975. BAC 259.80, HAEC.

Bulletin of the European Communities, No 4, 8th year. Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.

Procès-verbaux 348, séance du 15 juillet 1975. BAC 259.80, HAEC.

Procès-verbaux spéciaux 345, séance du 25 juin 1975. BAC 259.80, HAEC.

No. 193, Sittings of July 7-11, 1975, Debates of the European Parliament.

When the August 1 deadline the Council had set itself loomed closer, then came and went with no answer in sight, the Council was forced to concede that it had failed in finding appropriate short- and long-term measures to manage conditions on the wine market, ‘where every month sees more and more disruption caused by surpluses’,96 and with Italian ships still prevented from unloading their cargo in southern France. But it was not so much that Council members had failed to find a solution so much as failed to agree on what the problem was.

Having not had a clear idea of what the issue was, they were unable to decide where to go.

They provisionally agreed to the August 12 Commission’s proposal to grant aid for storage.

Angry Parliamentarians began to call the CWP the ‘Cinderella of the CAP,’97 decrying its lower funding and lack of automatic intervention relative to other product markets; it certainly did not suffer for want of attention, however. Yet another special meeting set exclusively to deal with wine-growing problems was scheduled for September 9, as the matter dragged on without the market clearing sufficiently. It was the Council’s inability to agree on a coherent solution and to act on it that caused them repeatedly to delay dealing with the issue. This was remarked on by Jorgen Brondlund Nielson, Liberal Parliamentarian, who scathingly charged that the Commission and the Council were ‘still in a state of total confusion. We know that wine confuses the mind, but prolonging the delay in this way – and I can only regret this as a rapporteur and a Member of this Parliament – is irresponsible.’98 The breakdown of the CWP seemed a serious possibility; the Commissioner for Agriculture himself bleakly commented that these difficulties, if not fixed, could spell the end: ‘if we do not conduct a balanced policy, it would be better for us not to conduct a policy at all.’99 He in Bulletin of the European Communities, No 7 & 8, 8th year. Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.

No. 193, Sittings of July 7-11, 1975, Debates of the European Parliament.

No. 192, Sittings of June 16-20, 1975, Debates of the European Parliament.

No. 193, Sittings of July 7-11, 1975, Debates of the European Parliament.

turn blamed the Council,100 claiming the Council ‘has never wished to take any measure at all and is unusually apprehensive on this point.’101 At the end of the September 9 meeting, this point on the inability of the Council to find a proper solution was forcibly highlighted. The Agricultural Council found ‘no solution that would regularise the wine trade between Italy and France.’102 The next day, Lardinois warned the Commission that the furious French government, feeling they had walked away disappointed and empty-handed again, had threatened to instate a tax on Italian wines entering its borders;103 this occurred the very next day. In the subsequent two Commission meetings on September 15 and Oct 1, harried Commissioners began ‘great deliberations’ over the wine situation and policy as a whole, with President François-Xavier Ortoli and Lardinois promising to deal with the situation rapidly.104 But through until the close of the calendar year, despite successive Council and Commission meetings, no solution was found, even after the French were charged as the Commission exercised their rights under Article 169 of the Treaty. The situation became increasingly dangerous, with pressing attention from observers on the grave nature of the French tax, given that the foundation of the European Community at the time was centrally economic and necessitated the free movement of goods.

In January 1976, in restricted meeting minutes, the Commission stressed the ‘extremely serious disadvantages, not only as regards the sector itself, but also in terms of the general situation of the community which results from the lack of progress in implementing new rules Though this may have been Lardinois’s tactic of gaining sympathy and support from the Parliament, which often felt marginalised by the then much more powerful Council.

No. 193, Sittings of July 7-11, 1975, Debates of the European Parliament.

Bulletin of the European Communities, No 9, 8th year. Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.

Procès-verbaux 350, séance du 10 septembre 1975. BAC 259.80, HAEC.

Procès-verbaux 351, séance du 15 septembre 1975. BAC 259.80, HAEC.

for the wine sector’.105 The President urged Lardinois to push the Council and ‘advise the Ministers of Agriculture of the sentiments of the Commission...with a pressing emphasis on the need to resume their deliberations with the true desire to reach an agreement.’106 It seemed to have struck the Council that the failed measures through the year and the fact that the wine crisis was unresolved almost a year later required a drastic shift, as this problem could not easily be rectified. On March 6, the Council finally adopted measures for a stricter new regime on wine: the planting of new vines was forbidden until at least 1978, harsher quality measures were put into place, and guaranteed intervention prices were granted to farmers who followed these new Council disciplinary measures for the next four years.107

–  –  –

The wine crisis demonstrated certain key characteristics of the CWP which would last through the 1970s. The wine crisis showed quite clearly that the policy turned on the FrancoItalian relationship. This was not particularly surprising, given that between them, they produced around 90% of the Community’s total wine output. But that all Member States seemed focused on the CWP demonstrated it was important beyond the ken of simply the major wine-producers; they were left to chase the French and Italians when problems arose, and would continue to do so in years to come. Lardinois claimed was the unsatisfactory compromise between French and Italian viewpoints during wine negotiations required ‘everybody now...to bear the consequences.’108 Procès-verbaux spéciaux 367, séance du 16 janvier, 1975. BAC 259.80, HAEC.


Clarke et al., The European Community: An Exercise in Decision-Making, 193.

Bulletin of the European Communities, No 4, 8th year. Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.

The wine crisis demonstrated quite clearly that the policy which had been set up five years earlier did not properly give clear treatment of short-term cyclical issues or long-term structural issues.109 Both these issues converged in the wine war between Italy and France.

The crisis also demonstrated that nationalistic economic motives were not the only driving incentive for integration.110 In fact, the CWP monopolised a significant amount of time, which would seem very economically inefficient for a policy amounting to so little of the CAP budget. Instead, it was the social significance of this area, and the dedication of Community officials to maintain the welfare of farmers111 that warranted the focus on the CWP.

At this time Germany, along with the Benelux countries, was displeased with the unlimited ceiling and rising costs of the Common Wine Policy; the success or otherwise of the CWP, a highly visible and attention-receiving policy, became a shorthand for the success of the Common Agricultural Policy as a whole for many. The other four Member States were concerned about the distillation suggested as a temporary aid by France and had hoped the price offered to the viticulteurs would be lower and that the total volume to be distilled would be smaller. But they realised that the situation was severe and – with the exception of Germany – seemed acquiescent, as they were ‘very concerned about the effects it may have for the whole common market.’112 In this regard, the French had a strong interest. Their moves from Sète in April through to the diplomatic battles they fought on wine in Brussels, Clarke et al., The European Community: An Exercise in Decision-Making, 80.

See, for example, Moravcsik, The Choice for Europe: Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to Maastricht.

For a full treatment, see Knudsen, Farmers on Welfare: The Making of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy.

Telegram 1288-1301, urgent, from Étienne Burin des Roziers to Ministry of Foreign Affairs. April 18, 1975.

Direction Europe, 38/2/3, Questions Internationales Européennes, Questions économiques, Marché commun questions agricoles, AD.

however, could have quite palpably damaged relations with a Member State which lent itself to being a natural ally on issues of the funding and operation of the CWP.

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