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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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firmes…négociations qui aboutiraient éventuellement à un accord cadre ou accord préférentiel pour essayer d’assurer une opération portant sur une production consommable en l’état, par un circuit semi-direct et dans le cadre d’une politique de prix différente. Le président Courret pense qu’une dizaine de grandes firmes pourraient être intéressées à négocier, avec le Languedoc-Roussillon….’59 The reason that the négoce and the vignerons had needed to and continued to need to work together was that ‘plus la situation du Languedoc-Roussillon se dégrade en matière viti-vinicole, plus cela se fait au détriment des petits, qu’ils soient dans la production ou le négoce. Mais ici, la solidarité est difficile, puisque les intérêts ne sont pas les mêmes. Nous ne situons pas le problème à un niveau coporatiste, mais, agissant dans l’intérêt de la région, nous ne pouvons sombrer dans le sentimentalisme’.60 Working together in cooperative movements, producers hand in hand with merchants, with less reactive agitation against the state but rather taking advantage of the Community mechanisms devised through the past ten years was, taken together, the new mandate of the Languedoc vignerons, ‘dans un contexte de «survie de la région».’61 The European Community was the new site of interest for vignerons, as they had finally and resignedly accepted the Community institutions and bureaucrats as the key decision makers in agriculture. Despite the fact that they were skeptical of its goal of trying to ‘restreindre la prolifération de la production vinicole n Europe’ especially ‘qu’on imagine ce qu’il en ira lorsque la Grèce sera devenue le dixième membre de la Communauté…puis plus tard le Portugal et l’Espagne’62, they were much more disillusioned with Paris, while also more generally aware that the national government was no longer the dominant player in terms of policy creation for table wine producers. Their loss of confidence in the French government Ibid.


Ibid.s 'Le Vin en Europe,' La Journée Vinicole, November 22, 1979.

to fix the situation was poetically encapsulated when, in speaking of their recognition that decision-making had moved to Paris, they talked about the political shift as being ‘la solution [qui] a, avouons-le, quelque chose de mystérieux, car l’alchimie du verbe d’Etat n’a tout de même pas le pouvoir de transformer ainsi les événements.’63 Vignerons continued to be heavily critical of the European Community however, and had cried that its solutions for table wine ‘ne sont du goût de personne.’64 In speaking about tastes, however, the vignerons exhibited both their sense of heightened regional feeling and identification, but also their feeling of being different to their neighbours. To the Midi vignerons, the difference in wine drinking and attitudes to wine was implicitly symptomatic of larger and more serious differences between the French and their Community colleagues (for they were often alarmist about these differences without explaining what the larger problems they potentially pointed to were). Midi vignerons felt that there ought to be a general appeal to ‘patriotisme européen pour…absorber la production’ if they indeed were going to be forced to be Community members together. Yet, southern French vignerons complained that despite the global average of drinking 49 litres of wine per year per European, it was very unevenly distributed – those in Luxembourg drank this amount, but the Dutch drank ‘11 misérables litres’ as did the Danish, the Belgians drank 15 litres, and the Germans 23 which ‘pour leur train de vie et leur capacité stomocale [sont] consternant!’.

They declared the Italians to be ‘plus honorables’ at 97 litres per person – and, in ‘leur première place traditionelle’, at 101 litres per person per year, was France. The importance they placed on wine drinking in this assessment was in essence the ultimate extension of the Frenchman’s burden, which was to drink up the production of his nation’s vineyards. The underlying assumption, which remained unanalysed in several similar articles concerns, was 'À Matignon : une conférence agricole nouveau style, mais toujours le même langage,' La Journée Vinicole, November 28, 1979.


that Europeans, and especially the French, ought to drink wine, and in fact, ought to drink more wine particularly in the face of the fact that certain members of this shared community were suffering because of decreasing consumption. This was presented as a duty, a part of being French and European; for instance, this argument was levied to implicitly accuse the British of not really being European because of their lack of wine drinking.65 This was added as one more important difference between the British and those in continental Europe.

This quality direction in Europe was questioned by the Midi vignerons, however. At this time, approximately 70% of the wine produced in Europe was table wine, and the rest quality wine. But the Midi vignerons were not entirely convinced that a reduction in quantity would necessarily result in quality for ‘qu’on veuille les désigner sous les vocables infamant de «gros rouge», «gros bleus», «picrate», «bibine à Bonnet», n’y change rien. De là à conclure que les producteurs produisant moins produiraient mieux, il n’y a qu’un pas, facile à franchir et franchi allègrement d’ailleurs…sans qu’on cerne de plus près la réalité pratique pour autant!’66 Their legitimation to deal with Brussels was reinforced by the increased state-like responsibilities the French government gave them which began in 1980 when they were given a much larger budget and much more autonomy than before. ‘L’ONIVIT va disposer en 1980, du fait de l’ouverture de crédit, au titre du plan du Grand Sud-Ouest, d’un budget beaucoup plus important: 368 million alors que celui de cette année n’était que de 212 millions. La réunion du 27 novembre a d’ailleurs permis le vote de la ventilation d'une partie des crédits qui n’avait pas été affectée.’ In addition, ONIVIT was also expecting 10 million francs in compensation from the value-added tax (VAT), 170,000 from the state for the l’Institut coopératif du vin, and from the Community, 1 million for the pre-financing of vineyard conversion, a 15 million bonus as a premium for converting, and 10 million for the 'Le Vin en Europe.' Ibid.

restructuring of vineyards. But despite the increasing fluency that Midi officials attained on Community matters and protocol, and despite efforts at the Community level to ease import problems, the summer of 1979 saw a second spike in Italian imports. 102,410 hl of Italian wine was taken in at Sète the week of July 15-21, followed by 87,869 hl the next week, and 190,279 hl the week after. In contrast, around this time, the Midi produced roughly 29 million hl per year.67 The decade closed with a second wine war soon to come.

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Those who were most successful in managing this new terrain and these new relationships were leaders who took on a multiplicity of roles. This was vital in both understanding and influencing policy. The increase in strength of and membership in cooperatives and syndicates during the 1970s was in no small part due to their excellent placement and ability to disseminate practical information about adhering to the complicated additional layers of regulations set out by the bureaucracy introduced by the CWP. But individuals who thrived were far more active and began to wear many hats in this arena that was created by the inclusion of wine in the common market, accompanied as it was by confusion and a considerable period of settling.

In having more exposure to policymaking, and due to the increasing necessity for many previously independent or small-time vignerons to join larger overhead organisations, these farmer-bureaucrats were able to develop a new consciousness which affected their sense of self and their perception of their status relative to their line of work. Before, those who worked the vines saw themselves as, were seen as, and were most commonly called Areas Under Vines: Results of the annual surveys 1979-1989, Eurostat. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 1991.

‘peasants’ – through the late nineteenth century, a series of changes propelled them to become units of a nation’s whole. This was the premise of Eugen Weber’s book ‘Peasants into Frenchmen’ and his assertion about the pace of change is certainly correct in that ‘over great parts of France the process of politicization was slower than we think; that, though many regions did indeed move at the pace historians indicate, others took more time’.68 Weber asserts that peasants became Frenchmen between 1870 and 1914, but this not quite the case for Languedoc-Roussillon vignerons. In fact, if we look at Weber’s definition for the transition, he asserts it was a change from ‘tradition local political to modern national politics [which] took place when individuals and groups shifted from indifference to participation because they perceived that they were involved in the nation…It meant that men and women, as private persons and as members of particular groups, had to be convinced that what went on in that wider entity mattered to them and had to be taken into consideration’.69 But the transition, conceived of this way, never fully happened until the 1970s for the LanguedocRoussillon. It was oddly enough the pressure from a supernational entity that caused the Midi vignerons to see beyond their narrow environs.

In the late nineteenth century, the government and the state in France were seen ‘dimly as agencies for the exaction of taxes, occasionally interfering to impose public order (not necessarily identical with local custom) and to mete out justice (not necessarily identical to equity)’.70 In some ways this is exactly what the European Community became – akin to the old bureaucratic France as seen from the vantage point of farmers. What is particularly interesting about this is, as mentioned before, vignerons were not disconnected from national lines or from experience with the higher or broader levels of government due to their integration into the national market. Despite their being well-connected through the veins of Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: the modernization of rural France, 1870-1914, 241.

Ibid., 242.


commerce, they still did not seem to be part of a national France. The change occurs because of the threat of the CEE acting to affect them – this does not mean that these locals taken as a whole trusted Paris, but that they saw themselves as needing to engage on a national (and eventually supranational level), which required banding together and breaking out of their regionally-focused independence.

Farmers became farmers and bureaucrats. By doing so, these particular vignerons were also the first to confront the fact that there were not inconsiderable constraints as to what could be implemented and changed at the national level. This led the Midi vignerons to grudgingly accept the idea of the irreversibility of the Community agreements and the Community project as a whole, though this mindset change would not come about fully until the early 1980s, and arguably not until after 1983, when the European Court of Justice ruled against France again for violations of the CWP with regards to import restrictions. Those Midi vignerons who managed to successfully stay in their profession were required to change tack in a few major ways: they would need to follow the turn to a policy of quality, and their leaders would need to engage at multiple levels – local, national, and supranational – to understand new policy. Here, Grace Skogstad’s comment seems particularly apt: ‘There is evidence that the power of the French farm lobby transcends the ideology of the governing party, which suggests the need for an argument that goes beyond the organizational strength of French farmers and their linkages to political parties. It requires recognition of the role that ideas about the multifunctionality of agriculture play in agrarian politics in France and the European Union more generally’.71

Grace Skogstad, 'Review of Adam D. Sheingate's The Rise of the Agricultural Welfare State (Princeton:

Princeton University Press, 2003),' The American Political Science Review 96, no. 1 (March 2002).

It was necessary to increasingly turn negotiating efforts and lobbying energy to Brussels to influence aspects of policy at the European level (rather than wait until proposals were directives and regulations and then experience them only when they were being implemented by their national government). This disruption of the strict hierarchy, which was established not only by the traditional millefeuille of French administration, but also by the way the French government had deliberately designed a chain-of-command to ‘speak with one voice’ at Brussels, was facilitated by disappointment of the Languedoc-Roussillon vignerons with not only the speed of progress but the inadequate proposals to come out of Paris.

–  –  –

Chapter three and chapter four together present the reactions, opinions, and thoughts of those in Languedoc-Roussillon to the Common Wine Policy in the 1970s, with the first looking at the reaction to the wine crisis in 1975 and reaction to it through until the end of 1976. This second part has analysed the local and regional reactions from 1977-1979. Through the 1970s, the regional wine crisis garnered national attention and became an international problem. The Languedoc-Roussillon wine growers wanted Paris to defend it by reverting to using unilateral nationalistic measures to forcibly decrease Italian wine imports.

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