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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 intervention is better explained by a desire to protect a patriotic and nationally symbolic industry; the European intervention is better explained by a welfarist perspective on the Common Agricultural Policy. The attendant opinions, reactions, and changes in selfperception of vignerons reveal nuance and complexity that address more than the economic effect of the European Community. Though the economic effect of the European Community was undoubtedly important and loomed large in the lives of these vignerons, the effects on their social and political identities were marked and tangible. The latter is harder to measure, but worthy of the study. The European Community engendered change in regional feeling, professional ideology, and cleavages within the wine community that is important to analyse, and has implications for understanding the dynamics of governance, the evolution of policy, and the complex rise of regionalism.

My work is divided into the following parts: the negotiations leading to the creation of the Common Wine Policy in 1970, its operation in the early 1970s until its first major crisis in 1975–1976, its drastic transformation from liberal policy to one of restrictive control in the late 1970s, the reaction in Languedoc-Roussillon to these changes over the decade, and the change in political relationships and governance at three levels – Brussels, Paris, and Languedoc-Roussillon – as a result of this process, as well as the direction of European policies in agriculture toward one of quality, which was largely influenced by the experience of dealing with the wine sector.

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The cultivation of vines has always been, financially, a most hazardous enterprise, and it was a rare occurrence for farmers, even when they called themselves vignerons, to rely entirely on grapes for a livelihood. Not until the second half of the nineteenth century did growers, chiefly those along the Mediterranean coast, resort to a monoculture of vines. They left to their children and grandchildren an agricultural legacy that became a style of life, not easily or voluntarily abandoned when no longer profitable because work habits and human values became intimately commingled.

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The interest of the French in developing a common wine market is curious. Prior to the 1970s, French control of the country’s wine industries, and indeed of several industries deemed to have particular national significance1, was strict and incisive. French vineyards in the modern era have been rigorously controlled and organised by the state since the adoption of the Code du vin in 1936. Yet at the Stresa Conference of 1958, at which participants formally agreed that agriculture was not only an essential part of economy but ‘un facteur Jack Ernest Shalom Hayward, ed. Industrial Entreprise and European Integration: From National to International Champions in Western Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

essentiel de la vie sociale’2, the six original member states, France included, maintained that wine was one of the essential agricultural products needing an integrated common market.

The Six had different ideas about classifications of wine and oenological processes, and their vineyards, for which regulations had evolved organically through traditions and heritage, operated under diverse imperatives. This was especially true of the two major wine producing states, France and Italy, who together produced around 90% of the Community’s wine at this time. Even from the outset, the European wine industries seemed very difficult to integrate.

That this policy was created and maintained is a puzzle. The policy came about in the 1970s, a time of economic crisis and a period commonly thought of as involving little new ambitious policy activity against a backdrop of stagflation, high unemployment, and a sense of reserve toward European integration.

The difficult of negotiating the Common Wine Policy (CWP) proved immense. One of the interests of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was the strong promotion of the modernisation of farms – this made wine a difficult matter to discuss. European Commissioner for Agriculture Sicco Manholt’s introduction of wide-ranging reforms in 1968, though reduced in scope when implemented in 1972, were all underscored by the idea of modernisation, in particular, reducing the number of small farms in favour of larger, more efficient conglomerations. But wine-making has remained relatively unchanged over hundreds of years of viticulture. While there have been some changes in production and an increase in new labour-saving technologies, the production of wine is not particularly mutable. In fact, many wines also derive their value specifically from traditional, un-modern 'Résolution finale adoptée par les délégations des six États membres de la Communauté économique européenne (CEE) réunies pour la conférence agricole de Stresa, du 3 au 12 juillet 1958.' July 12, 1958.

Collection of documents of the Agricultural Conference of Member States of the European Economic Community in Stresa from 3 to 12 July 1958. Luxembourg: Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities.

methods, and their production on small, family farms, or châteaux. Despite these important and engaging issues surrounding the CWP, the Community’s wine policy, though the subject of much economic and technical analysis, has been largely ignored by historians.





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This thesis is the product of an interest in investigating how the European Community (EC) affected wine growers in France. However, this impact was highly uneven and some groups initially had little need for interaction with the Community – this included Bordeaux3 and Champagne4, for instance, along with other predominantly quality wine producing regions.

Instead, the design and goals of the European Community’s wine policy, the creation of which are discussed in chapter one, meant that it affected table wine growers in the main in its initial decade at least. One place where the influence of the European Community was very much felt was the Languedoc-Roussillon region. The region in the 1970s makes for an excellent case study because Languedoc-Roussillon’s economy has traditionally been heavily dependent on viticulture and its inhabitants’ livelihoods and cultural traditions were deeply tied up with wine growing and the family farm. Their wine growers also largely produced table wine, and they were the major contributors to the European Community’s ‘wine lake’.

This was the term given to the continued surplus of wine, which began in the 1970s and which this thesis argues was exacerbated by the policies of the Community.

The aim of this thesis more specifically is to answer the question, ‘What effect did the European Community have on the table wine producers in the Midi in France in the 1970s?’ For more on wine politics in the Bordeaux, see for instance Andy Smith, Jacques Maillard, and Olivier Costa, Vin et politique: Bordeaux, la France, la mondialisation (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2007).

A thorough history of wines in Champagne, and their use in the formation of identity, is given in Kolleen M.

Guy, When Champagne Became French: Wine and the Making of a National Identity (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).

This requires an analysis of the development and operation of the first decade of the CWP, and its operation in the most prominent and established wine producer at the time in the EEC, France. As a result, the thesis first reconstructs the historical narrative of the creation of the wine policy in Brussels before examining how these policies affected local and regional actors. This approach is necessary because a coherent narrative of the CWP at any level is currently missing, and needs first to be filled out at the most basic level, its creation, before moving to that of its impact. After this, the thesis analyses the impact that the implementation of the CWP had on the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between different levels of government, and the changes in political and social identities as a result of policy-changes to a product rooted in tradition and cultural importance.

This work intends to contribute to the broader existing debates in related scholarship in three major areas. First, this thesis is interested in the impact of the European Community on local actors, an area of study it contributes to by looking at changes in organisational behaviour and political as well as professional identity amongst vignerons in direct or indirect response to the Community. Second, it adds another element to the study of the development of European and national policy-making interactions, by looking for the first time exclusively and comprehensively at the creation of the Common Wine Policy, a policy area concerning a product imbued with cultural significance. It is also the first historical assessment that disaggregates the CAP by looking at one strand of the markets that make it up. Third, it intends to contribute to the literature on French and European Community engagement with regions, and in a similar vein, comments on the place of France and the place of regions in the Community in the 1970s. At its core, this thesis blends social and political history, and combines a top-down and bottom-up approach, by looking at both the European Community’s effect on local actors, and local actors’ responses to and engagements with their government and the Community.

The first ten years of the CWP was a very difficult period for wine-growers. This period was marked by the beginning of what would later be termed the ‘wine lake’, continuing structural surpluses aggravated by naturally abundant harvests, such as the very serious ones in 1974 and 1975. The creation of the policy was recognised by the Council as having angered farmers, yet there has not been any analysis of the perspectives of these farmers, though they constitute an important party to the affairs. Wine-growers were faced with massive changes in their profession, some of which threatened their livelihood. For example, financial incentives were provided for farmers not only to give up certain farm land but also to encourage older wine growers to retire sooner. Land was classified according to its suitability to grow certain wines. Mandatory distillation and aid for stockpiling were introduced in 1974.

In 1978 the European Commission proposed measures which were later accepted to prohibit until 1985 new planting of any kind for table wine. Pricing for wine was set and changed within the internal market. There was even the introduction of campaigns to increase consumption, paradoxically occurring alongside a rise in anti-alcohol lobbies. It seems obvious to wonder what wine growers said about this, yet most of the examination of the subject thus far has been strictly economic and technical. How did affected farmers deal with the national governments attempting to ratify and implement this policy and did they engage with Brussels-level decision-makers? Why did the EEC favour quality over table wines in their policy-making and what influence did their policies have on table wine growers?

Wine negotiations were seen as essential to the success of the CAP – one French agricultural bureaucrat declared it was tantamount to the success of the entire European integration process.5 This dramatic statement demonstrates both the importance of creating a wine market and the interest in the French in the manner of its creation. However, the national wine policies were so different as to make the creation of a common wine policy very tumultuous, and national governments, particularly France and Italy, had vested interests in satisfying the strong agricultural lobby groups within their countries. This would have been easier to do without the onerous bureaucracy of the EEC which required contemplation of what was best for the Community as a whole. Why was the creation of a common wine policy seen as essential? Why did it not go the way of the common alcohol market? After all, the latter proved to be too difficult to realise, and so became a loose overhead system of tariff and quota elimination and tax harmonisation among member states’ own ethyl alcohol markets.

Wine was connected to ideas of tradition and identity for many in the European Community.

While alcohol production, for instance, could be viewed as an industry much more than a branch of agriculture, wine, it seemed, could not be treated this way in a continent with countries having centuries of oenological practices. Wine had a prominence in terms of the labour force involved and the problems related to varying production conditions and the size of production units, which made the wine issue more the domain of agricultural purview and lent itself to greater intervention mechanisms. Wine production was also symbolically central to the life of certain European farmers, and certainly so in the popular mindset of Europeans proud of their viticultural heritage, and could not be easily excluded from the CAP, in spite of difficulties in its inclusion.

'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.

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