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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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Under Méhaignerie, in an effort to address the issue of essential agricultural restructuring, the Ministry of Agriculture’s organisation Association nationale pour le développement de l’aménagement foncier agricole et rural (ANDAFAR), which had been created in 1972, released in April 1977 an instructive brochure regarding vineyard restructuring. The brochure, along with the general issue of restructuring, was raised at a round table debate convened by the chef de service of the Institute National des Appellation d’Origine (INAO), Marcel Lugan. He invited the ‘principaux intéressés dans cette affaire’, M. Murret-Labarthe, the director of ONIVIT, Yves Bentegeac, the commissioner for the restructuring of Languedocien vineyards, and Emmanuel Maffre-Baugé, the president of the regional 'L’agriculture française dans l’impasse,' La Journée Vinicole, April 5, 1977.

Ibid.

'L’agriculture française dans l’impasse.' Ibid.

chamber of agriculture and also the widely acknowleged ‘porte-parole des viticulteurs du Midi’, all well-known figures from the Languedoc. All there agreed that restructuring was in principle an excellent idea – however, the question remained whether this was to be ‘volontariste ou dirigiste.’6 They complained too that administratively, the wine policy was already heavily-layered and complicated, and that this could add another difficult burden for discontented wine growers.7 Maffre-Baugé insisted that the most difficult issue was the human factor because it was not possible to establish a complete separation ‘du mode de vie et du revenue des viticulteurs.’8 As he explained, La restructuration, on en parle beaucoup, mais elle s’asphyxie et se perd dans les dédales des procédures administratives. En 1973, M. Chirac avait lancé une première action portant sur 2000 hectares contrôlés par an, en précisant que les choses iraient vite. On en est encore aux balbutiements. Quant aux modalités de ré-encépagement elles n’ont cessé de varier et de se contredire. On a recommandé successivement plusiers cépages sans voir leur évolution sur les divers terroirs. Aussi les viticulteurs sont-ils complètement découragés. 9 Wine-growers might indeed have been completely discouraged with their national government, as Maffre-Baugé suggested, and they quickly turned to discussions with those they had formerly maligned in an effort to resolve the difficult situation of their decreasing revenues. A delegation of Italian wine cooperatives met with the representatives of the Confédération nationale de la coopération françaises (CNCV) on March 9, 1977. The goal of the meeting was an examination of the viti-vinicultural situation in the common market, and to confront the different points of view on the propositions presented by both sides. The previous round table between the two groups had been over a year ago. They ultimately did not see eye to eye on the issue of Italian wine imports into France, which the French claimed were unfair competition. As one report on the conference acknowledged ‘Rien ne semble avoir beaucoup changé sous cet angle. Les Italiens se retranchent derrière le sacro-saint traité 'La restructuration du vignole,' La Journée Vinicole, April 7, 1977.

Ibid.

'La restructuration du vignole.' Ibid.

de Rome et le libre échange; les Français parlent de concurrence déloyale…un dialogue de sourds.’10 However, they very firmly declared their solidarity and joint commitment to preventing the entry of Greece, Spain, and Portugal from disturbing the already fragile Community wine market.

Both delegations shared their mutual concerns about the entry of the Mediterranean countries.

Not wanting these new additions to disturb the wine market, they instead suggested their policymakers consider the bulk of the Franco-Italian wine legislation together, in the hopes that better understanding it would prepare them for these entries: ‘A cet effet, elles ont été d’accord pour désigner une commission commune.’11 They were not in agreement when it came to free circulation and ‘formulations commune.’ The Italian delegation reaffirmed their belief in the principle of free circulation of goods in the Community, but acknowledged again that one of the causes of the disturbance of the agricultural markets and the limits of circulation were in effect the monetary disparity existing between the two countries. They once again argued that ‘tout accord de groupes sociaux tendant à limiter la circulation des produits agricoles est une violation des règles communautaires.’12 The French response was that a liberal ‘règlementation communautaire’ in wine was an existing menace to French viticulture and that moreover the monetary disturances and the economic and social disparities of the two countries had contributed to the situation: ‘La délégation française demande en conséquence une révision fondamentale des textes communautaires, dans leur esprit et dans leur forme, dans une optique résolument dirigiste, afin d’aboutir à une véritable organisation du marché et à l’assainissement et à la réglementation de la production.’13 'La coopération vinicole,' La Journée Vinicole, March 17, 1977.

Ibid.

Ibid.

Ibid.

At the same time, the disappointment of vignerons in both the state and the new statesponsored apparatus ONIVIT spilled over in this tense atmosphere of disillusionment and breakdown in the relationship with Paris. In mid-March 1977, the producers walked out of ONIVIT again, rendering it once more incapable of meeting its aim of bringing together representatives from different strata of the wine industry to come to joint agreement on wine policies. Instead, the producers ‘on décidé à nouveau de s’abstenir de siéger à l’Office [du vin] tant que des mesures concrètes ne seront pas prises pour assainir le marché’14, and expressed a desire to cut ties with both ONIVIT and the Ministry of Agriculture in a letter they sent to the Ministry of Agriculture explaining why they had temporarily left the office over the complicity of both in the ‘situation en péril avec de plus une recrudescence inquiètante d’importations de vins italiens.’15 In response, Director Murret-Labarthe angrily replied, ‘Je n’interprète absolument pas que les gens viennent ou ne viennent pas à l’Office….Je ne juge pas les raisons pour lesquelles les viticulteurs sont venus ou ne sont pas venus…Je constate toutefois une antimonie : ils prétendent ne rien reprocher à l’Office, et c’est à l’Office qu’ils ne viennent pas.’16 This shift in attitude towards the Community in 1977 coupled with the increasing distance with Paris on the part of Midi vignerons was well-timed, for in 1978 the Community would undergo a serious re-examination of the CWP, which resulted in a major revision of the policy and introduced strict measures on planting, production, and grubbing up of vines, in an effort to reduce the overall vineyards in the Community, reduce the amount of table wine produced, and increase the quality of table wine overall. The vignerons in the Midi were 'Les représentants de la viticulture expliquent leur décision de ne plus siéger temporairement à l’ONIVIT,' La Journée Vinicole, March 26, 1977.





Ibid.

Ibid.

better prepared to follow and try to influence these negotiations over regulation 816/70, the fundamental text underpinning the Community’s wine policy, than they had been with earlier stages of the CWP’s development.

The plan, enacted at the beginning of 1977 by the Council of Ministers, had as its top guiding priority to ‘promouvoir les vins de qualité’, which the project manager for Languedocian regional land development (Aménagement du Territoire et à l’Action Régionale) wryly commented was a euphemistic way to say ‘décourager la production des vins de table indifférenciés obtenus par mélange’.17 The Community envisaged effecting this change in four major ways: first, through the restructuring of vineyards through the improvement of grape varietals and property structures, second, through the improvement of the aid scheme for the facilities of wineries, particularly for those designated as ‘groupements de producteurs’ or those making quality wine, third, the strengthening of marketing structures, which for the table wine producers ONIVIT would be taking the lead in France, and fourth, the voluntary conversion of vineyards into farms producing other goods. The programme cost was to be shared: ‘Ces quatre actions vont s'enrichir ensuite par un va et vient entre la France et la CEE, avec une prise en charge partielle des coûts par le FEOGA, va et vient qui a démarré avant ce Conseil.’18 The fourth and last point involved some heavy national assistance. The French government had in fact created a special ‘Programme Spécial Languedoc-Roussillon’, and one of the aims of this programme was to reduce the overall vineyard total in Languedoc-Roussillon by 2000 hectares per year for which ‘une aide spéciale sera accordée en plus du régime CEE.’19 ‘Note sur la Politique Viticole.' D. Maquart, chargé de mission de l'aménagement du territoire et à l'action régionale. January 17, 1979. 1084W/171, Archives départementales de l'Hérault.

Ibid.

'Note sur la Politique Viticole.' D. Maquart, chargé de mission de l'aménagement du territoire et à l'action régionale. January 17, 1979. 1084W/171, Archives départementales de l'Hérault.

However, experience with Brussels had led local entities to be more aware of what was happening with changes to wine policy. While still being passed around as a proposal in the Commission, a potential addition to the CWP caught the attention of local LanguedocRoussillon officials. The August 1978 Commission proposal was for a comprehensive restructuring of the Community’s viticultural set-up. For this the Commission proposed using a system of three physical criteria – altitude, slope, and levels of sun – to define three zone classifications which would be applied across the CEE. Zone 1 (labelled ‘very good’) would be given new planting rights, zone 2 (‘average’) would not be given new planting rights but would possibly be required to restructure or grub-up, and zone 3 (‘poor’) would be designated for grubbing-up only. Using the Commission’s criteria, most of the Midi fell under zone 3, to which the head of the mission of the Languedocien regional land development group responded, ‘C’est un tollé en France.’20 While officials caught this rather late – they first took notice of it in early January 1979 – nevertheless, this was one of the first instances of a new approach to Brussels. Better to catch these proposals while still in gestation, than to find out about them when they were official policy. The office of the Mission Régionale noted that the issue, first brought up by a lower office, was alarming and issued their agreement with the Italian position that wanted a fourth category included, that of terroirs as evidenced by both historical quality of products and objective conditions (like soil composition, for instance.) They lamented that the lack of clear information, as before, meant ‘les viticulteurs ne savent pas exactement qu'elles seront les modalités d'application de la directive CEE.’21 A circular had appeared which was heavily discussed and criticized by the wine growing profession and Minister of Agriculture Pierre Méhaignerie ‘a été attaqué à ce sujet lors de son passage à Montpellier et n’a pu répondre, Ibid.

'Note à l'attention de M. le Chef de la Mission Régionale.' From the office of the Mission Régionale, Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon. January 23, 1979. 1084W/171, Archives départementales de l'Hérault.

ignorant l’existence de cette circulaire’22 with the result that many of the vignerons did not know how to implement this new CEE directive, or had simply decided not to. The office warningly noted in particular that regarding the fourth point of the new proposal, the conversion of vineyards, the mindset of Languecian vignerons would make the implementation of this difficult: ‘Reconversion du vignoble: il faut bien rappeler que les viticulteurs languedociens, persuadés que s'ils font beaucoup de vins, font pourtant de plus en plus de produits de qualité, estiment que ce n'est pas à eux d'arracher: aussi disent-ils que les aides à la restructuration les intéressent, mais que les aides à la reconversion devraient être attribuées aux zones viticoles marginales dont, affirment-ils, ils ne sont pas.’23 This issue touched upon a more broad-ranging issue with communicating Community policy to affected citizens. Vignerons faced an environment of constantly changing regulations and directives relating to what they could plant, what they could not plant, what they needed to grub up, and what prices were being offered for what kinds of wine produced. Even outsiders noticed this: remarking on the European Community wine policies – especially as at this time, the Community was attempting to impose regulations in its own likeness on the kinds of wine being imported and one of the countries running afoul of these fairly inflexible policies was the United States – CNCV president Chandou reported that a journalist in New York had remarked to him that the Community ‘avez tendance à exporter plus de règlements que de produits.’24 Alongside the bureaucracy-inducing processes involved in a managed market, the extension of the European Common Market to the wine sector perpetuated an existing problem: ‘Wine statutes and rabbits seem to share a common destiny, that is, both reproduce prolifically.’25 Ibid.

Ibid.

'Président Chandou des coopérateurs,' La Journée Vinicole, February 2, 1977.

Loubère, The Wine Revolution in France, 35.



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