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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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However, this plan never came to fruition, despite the Commission’s fervent efforts, which, in spite of much criticism from delegates through even the nascent stages of the plan, resulted in 'S/389/78 (CSA 84) (MED)', Proposal for a Council regulation on the establishment of an interprofessional European organisation of table wine and meeting of the Groupe de travail 'Vin'. February 22, 1978. BAC 48/1984.1133, HAEC.

a detailed formal proposal submitted to the Council on February 13,1978.128 Almost all parties had reservations about the plan and rejected the idea of such an organisation. The French, Germans, and Italians in particular stressed the necessity of keeping certain competencies within the exclusive purview of public powers – in particular the French were adamant that ‘certains services nationaux…devraient en tout état de cause garder leur complète indépendance.’129 They all preferred to keep their own institutions. The Groupe de travail ‘vins’, in desperation to keep the discussion on a potential organisation afloat, asked the French delegation to submit a document detailing their experiences with their own existing national interprofessionnal viti-vinicultural organisation. This was provided but no further action was taken – an interprofessional European wine organisation was not created.

Discussions between 1978 and 1980 focused predominantly on how to change the pricing mechanisms of the wine system. One of the major concerns was what to do in case of another table wine crisis. The Commission proposed that, were there to be a serious crisis for a type of table wine because of pricing that the table wine in question, at the discretion of the Council and Commission, it would be strictly prohibited for a predetermined period of time from being sold at a price inferior to a fixed ‘floor price’. These ‘floor prices’ would be effective for 1978 until at least 1982, and would be calculated to be 70% of the corresponding prix d’orientation or target price. At the same time, there would be a Community-wide distillation of the troubled table wine at that year’s floor price.

'Proposals for Council Regulations: 1. establishing a European Joint-Trade Table Wine Organization II.

amending Regulation (EEC) No 816/70 laying down additional provisions for the common organization of the market in wine.,' in C 71/2, Official Journal of the European Communities, March 22, 1978.

'S/389/78 (CSA 84) (MED)', Proposal for a Council regulation on the establishment of an interprofessional European organisation of table wine and meeting of the Groupe de travail 'Vin'. February 22, 1978. BAC 48/1984.1133, HAEC.

This was a very welfarist plan, and several delegations protested – the Dutch claimed that this was at odds with the Community’s stated policy in the direction of quality for wine as it could be taken advantage of by farmers who preferred to rely on this considerable price support rather than strive to produce better quality wine.130 The French, ‘toute en étant favorable en principe à l’introduction d’un mécanisme de prix’131 were the most vocal about expressing their support for the idea, though not in its conception at the time – the other delegations had many objections, and it was the Germans who were most blunt in explaining why they disagreed with the idea of a financially generous and cushioning floor price, pronouncing that they were entirely against the flavour of these now clearly welfarist measures; they were ‘contre la mise en ouevre de toute mesure de garantie permanente des revenus’ and were instead in favour of ‘une politique de co-responsabilité croissante des producteurs dans le secteur viti-vinicole.’132 By contrast, in the milk market, co-responsibility quotas had already been introduced in 1977.

These were levies placed on the milk delivered to dairies with the aim to decreasing the price and thereby, shrinking the milk lake. There was already evidence of success after a year, even if this was rather limited – however, by 1980, it was markedly making a difference.133 But this was not applied to the wine sector as a way to cope with the wine lake. One of the other suggested changes, by contrast, was far better received, and involved increasing the amount of preferential aid given to groupements de producteurs, including the introduction of a ‘système 'S/401/78 (CSA 91) (MED)', Proposals for Council regulations modifying Regulation 816/70 and report on the meeting of the Groupe de travail 'Vins' of February 22, 1978. February 24, 1978. BAC 48/1984.1133, CMA.

'S/478/78 (CSA 102) (MED)', Proposals for Council regulations modifiying Regulation 816/70 and the results of the initial investigations by the Groupe de travail 'Vins',. March 9, 1978. BAC 48/1984.1133, HAEC.


Katja Seidel, 'Contested Fields: The Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy ' in European Community 1973-1986. Histories and Memories of an Institution ed. Vincent et al. Dujardin (Luxembourg: Official Publications of the European Union, Forthcoming 2014).

de primes de qualité’134 and continuing to encourage the formation of these groups across the wine-growing regions in the Community.

The final measure taken for the Common Wine Policy at the end of the 1970s was a formal and longer-term ‘Programme d’Action’ which was to cover, for the first time, a span of five years, from 1979 to 1985, rather than one. It was this final programme, the last of those devised for the wine industry in the 1970s and which was to set the tone for the next decade, which made it clear that the problem of the wine industry was not only overproduction, but overproduction of the wrong kind of wine. The text drawn up by the Commission explicitly laid out the permissions and directions in each of three wine-growing categories. The vineyards producing wines in the second category, which were predominantly table wines, were expressly forbidden from new planting (though they were allowed to replant over grubbed up vines with the specific determined varieties). The vineyards in the third category, which were those producing on the whole table wines of poor quality, were not only forbidden from new planting, but also forbidden from receiving national aid for investing in replanting or improvement of the vineyard.

However, those with vineyards in the first category were allowed new planting, as well as national and Community aid to help improve the structure of their vineyards, and even aid for replanting and new planting. But more than this even, extraordinarily, ‘Les bénéficiaires de ces régimes recevront de plus une prime forfaitaire d'amélioration du vignoble d'un montant situé entre 1500 et 2.500 UC/ha, montant correspondant, dans cette fourchette, aux coûts de 'S/478/78 (CSA 102) (MED)', Proposals for Council regulations modifiying Regulation 816/70 and the results of the initial investigations by the Groupe de travail 'Vins',. March 9, 1978. BAC 48/1984.1133, HAEC.

l'opération de replantation.’135 It was clear that the Community’s priority was not simply a blanket reduction in the amount of wine produced in the Community, or new planting – which entailed expansion – would have been expressly forbidden across the board, or at the very least, forbidden at the second and third levels, and discouraged at the first. The economic and long-term consideration of wines that were profitable was as important to the Commission as the welfarist interests they were concerned about protecting.

–  –  –

The wine crisis of 1975, the first major challenge facing the CWP, caused a sharp change in the direction of the policy, where more incisive management style, as long argued for by the French, was introduced. But the price of this for France was the loss in closeness with an ally on issues of defending the CWP. Both the illegal tax and blockade made the French unpopular and their short-term victory of sorts resulted in longer-term disadvantages.

Beyond this strain on the Franco–Italian relationship was a much more precarious situation.

This situation threatened the continuation of the whole principle of a common market where goods could circulate freely among member states. That a major member state was allowed to flout these rules, and to do so for over a year, was thereby a threat to the integration regime as a whole. As this was a period of severe economic downturn, similar protectionist pressures also existed in other sectors and other member states. Disruptions or policy changes in one market – or the suggestion of them – could have spill-over effects into other markets which would be problematic for all Member States. If a serious breach of EC rules were permitted 'COM(78) 260 final. Volume I: Programme d'action 1979-1985 en vue de l'establissement progressif de l'equilibre sur le marché viti-vinicole.' Brief from the Commission to the Council. July 31, 1978. BAC 48/1984.1133, HAEC.

for wine, perhaps a shaky industry like steel would be next, and not far behind that, car manufacturing.

Another reason that the CWP could have ramifications on the entire CAP was that to open serious discussions about forcibly decreasing the amount of wine produced would lead to a discussion on making other markets smaller, to deal with the ‘butter mountain’, ‘the beef mountain’, and the ‘milk lake’. There was, for instance, no response to the remark by the Communists within the Parliament that ‘production controls were needed not just for wine but for all farm products’, 136 as this would counteract the income-increasing factor of the CAP the French wanted to keep.

The wine crisis made clear that the CWP as it stood was not able to deal with serious overproduction, and that the overproduction was not a temporary imbalance that could be solved by year-to-year, one-off measures, like emergency distillation. As a result, in 1976, the CWP became much more interventionist, a characteristic which was to mark the CWP for the rest of the 1970s.

One key feature highlighted by the crisis which persisted beyond the 1970s with the CWP was the tension between different imperatives of the CAP. The modernisation policy aim of the CAP, Directive 159, directed at making farms larger and more efficient, was problematic for a sector that the EEC recognised was characterised by many small farm holdings.137 But Article 39 of the Treaty of Rome established not only the increase of farm productivity as a goal of the CAP, but also made this a precondition for the increase in farmers’ income.138 The Bulletin of the European Communities, No 4, 8th year. Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.

Newsletter of the CAP, No.5: The CAP Serves Farmers and Consumers in a Time of Economic Instability.

Article 39, Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community, 1957.

modernisation goals the European Community enshrined in the CAP, designed also to increase international competitiveness, locked horns with the welfarist policies to help family farmers stay on their land and to keep or raise incomes to parity with those in other sectors. In no other sector was this tension so clear than in wine. The modernisation policies strove to reduce the volume of table wine produced, while the welfarist policies, through their aim in raising wages, encouraged more production. One of the goals of the CAP was even to increase productivity but the table wine industry was clearly too productive in this period.

The interventionist changes from 1976 onward were ‘very unpopular’139 with farmers, but at the Community level, little was discussed about the farmers whose incomes and livelihoods were on the line as a result of the policy changes at the European level of governance. It took until 1978 for the Community to seriously discuss involving producers in the policy-making process. Instead, despite the growing strength of particular French agricultural lobbies, the anger of the viticulteurs, which was noted by European presses, was hardly a subject discussed beyond a passing mention at the Community level before the late 1970s, despite the fact that these growers’ livelihoods were very much at stake and that furthermore, for certain regions, wine-growing ‘constitutes the basic and sometimes sole income of millions of producers.’140 The angry reaction from French wine growers in response to this episode set the scene for their more assertive behaviour and an increase in their autonomy, which actually both the European Community and French government were responsible for facilitating. The efforts of vignerons to change from lobbying for their cause only at the French level to lobbying there in conjunction to moving to the European level will be discussed in subsequent chapters.

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

Bulletin of the European Communities, No 7 & 8, 8th year. Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.

Chapter Three

Table Wine and Riots in Languedoc-Roussillon, Part I:

The response of vignerons in Languedoc-Roussillon to the wine crisis, 1975–1976 Si toute l’histoire de la monoculture viticole en Languedoc est rythmée par des crises conjuncturelles répétées, dont la région trouve toujours plus ou moins bien à sortir, la periode 1970–1980 marque sans conteste l’apparition et la prise de conscience progressive d’un état de crise structurelle….Entre les comportements des viticulteurs, convaincus de la «légitimé» d’une monoproduction régionale très protégée et les régles générales de fontionnement des marchés en France et dans le monde, vont apparaître et se développer un certain nombre de distorsions ou de contradictions.’

–  –  –

Le Languedoc-Roussillon est la région de ces trop célèbres vins du Midi qui ne valent guère mieux que ceux qui nous proviennent d’Italie, bien souvent vin sacrificiel des viticulteurs en colère de l’Hérault et de l’Aude.

–  –  –

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