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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 crux of the matter was that these demands were impossible for the French government to meet while maintaining its imperatives. While these imperatives involved keeping the heavily socialist populace in the south of France happy and appearing to support the identity of Frenchness by supporting a nationally symbolic sector, they also included strong French leadership in the European Community, which was ultimately challenged by a flagrant violation of the free movement of goods. This resulted in inaction, though various small and temporary measures to placate the Midi were used while a search for a permanent solution was undertaken. During the delay, there was an upsurge in regional feeling and activity that would last well beyond the 1970s, which was directed against the French government for failing to protect them from the vagaries they were exposed to as a result of the Community policies. It is important to note that when vignerons in the Midi reacted to what they saw as the Community’s actions or the result of their actions, they were not always correct in identifying their causal agent – but this does not invalidate the importance of using these reactions to understand how they felt about the Community, its institutions and politics.

An analysis of their reactions demonstrated that the Midi farmers, in contrast to what might be presumed, were relatively well-informed about what was happening in Brussels. They were also not, as popular conceptions of farmers hold, conservative and unreforming – those in the Midi were heavily socialist and communist, and they made attempts to modernise while protecting their traditions and regional ways of life, engaging most prominently in this period in cooperative syndical ventures. Cooperatives, groupements de producteurs, and interprofessional groups were encouraged and given financial support both by the French government initially and then by the Community; various laws and regulations through the 1970s helped enshrine their places within or alongside state agricultural apparatus. These groups also played a role in the rise in regionalism. This gave Midi vignerons additional tools with which to maintain their sense of local and regional identity and culture in spite of being subjected to national and international market flows, global commercial pressures, and the ongoing European integration process.

–  –  –

Regions, Actors, and the Experience of the Common Wine Policy in the 1970s Nobody can, in my humble opinion, organise grape production.

- M. Gardère, a wine-grower interviewed in The Vine Remembers, 162.

After the experience of the first decade of the European Community’s Common Wine Policy, interactions between actors and institutions resulted in dynamic changes in the relationships between the Midi, Paris, and Brussels. The French national government was one of the principal architects of the CWP – in helping to create it, it attempted to decrease its responsibility for France’s wine sector by devolving enforcement of the policy upwards to the European Community, and after the wine crisis of 1975, devolving implementation downwards to vignerons. The French government also created an environment which was conducive to local agitation and mobilisation, by encouraging the grouping together of the wine community’s leaders and the promotion of both existing groups and the creation of new ones, which was solidified in various new or enhanced laws for agricultural organisations in the 1970s. While this may have happened alongside comparable process for the milk and cereals industries, the relinquishing of control over this important ‘patriotic industry’ was surprising and unnecessary. It was, however, very helpful for a government under continuing financial strain from subsidising table wine producers who were only looking poised to produce more, while on the horizon the drinking of quality wine in lieu of table wine (whereas before these two had coexisted) loomed. But economics alone does not explain the French decision: the dance was more intricate and difficult because of the ever-present thread tying wine to French identity that French policymakers were forced to consider, however obliquely.

This chapter will bring together different arguments and examinations from the previous chapters to explore several broad themes. It argues that the first decade of the CWP changed relationships between different groups at the European, national, and local level in two major ways: first, national French government institutions voluntarily decreased their power over a key national industry – this was the most marked feature in the French wine industry of this time period; second, the CWP helped facilitate the rise of sub-national and non-state actors in policy circles from which they were previously excluded. Empowered by the new responsibilities given to them by the French government, particularly via a newly-created national office of wine, French vignerons – not only those in the Midi – began attempting to bypass the national French bottleneck to the Community and directly lobby European-level institutions, either via their own organisations or as part of transnational endeavours. Given the French government’s particularly adamant control of who represented the country at the Brussels levels in the 1960s, this change in the following decade, and their seeming acceptance, even in some ways encouragement, of this was a significant shift. This chapter, in contrast to previous ones, is organised thematically, rather than chronologically.

Justifying the Examination of a Strand of the Common Agricultural Policy Before delving into the two principal influences the CWP had on French vignerons in the Midi in the 1970s, it is important to re-examine the question of why the Common Wine Policy ought to be examined of its own accord. The chapter on the negotiation of the CWP makes two things plain – first, that the French had a great influence over the process and were, alongside the Italians, the principal architects of the policy. Therefore, their ability to direct the negotiations was significant and sometimes almost unilateral. Second, all parties took for granted that a common market for wine ought to be created – in taking it for granted, it was presumed by extension that an alcohol market would at some point be created, either subsuming the wine market, or alongside the wine market.

However, the creation of the CWP, given the difference between its operation and the other common markets, was not necessary for the completion of the CAP. It does not fit as well into the structures of the CAP as its close cousins milk and cereal, for instance. It seems more compelling to consider that the CWP was created because of its necessity in a sociological sense. Given the strength of its position as one of only two major wine producers in the Community, it would have been entirely plausible for France to have forced an exclusion to be made for wine when it came to the common markets. Wine is not a base agricultural product – it is a processed product, akin to cheese or even liquor. While milk has a common market, its derivatives cheese or butter do not. Neither was there a community policy for a variety of agriculturally-derived liquor – such as whisky (derived from wheat, rye, or barley) and vodka (derived from potatoes). One particularly compelling reason to believe that the wine industry was accorded a special kind of place in the pantheon of Europe’s agricultural products because of its identity was that a market was created for it amongst these other base agricultural products and to the exclusion of one or even several alcohols markets. The grapes themselves, for the producers’ sakes, might have been included under the fruit and legumes market. And if wine were to be included, then it seems natural to consider including at least a market for other alcohol derived from agriculturally important products in the Community, such as whisky, especially after the United Kingdom’s admission into the Community.

Instead, there was no community policy for liquor, despite plenty of discussion during negotiations in the late 1960s and even in the 1970s after the common market had been created that such a thing would be necessary and would be a powerful and buttressing homologue of the wine market1; despite industry pressure, it was not until 2001 that a Commission proposal was published for a simple ‘framework of common rules in the form of a “lightweight” common market organisation for agricultural alcohol.’2 Instead, the common wine market, one of the enfants terribles of the Common Agricultural Policy, was pushed through because it was spoken of, but not adequately justified as, being the final piece of a unified agricultural policy in the Community, primarily by the French national government.

The Common Wine Policy’s Effects: A Voluntary Decrease in French Government Involvement In the Wine Industry and Greater Legitimacy for Vignerons The French national government, in helping to create the Common Wine Policy, appeared to act against tradition. After all, the control of wine by the French government and indeed by syndicates themselves was in some cases so strict that vignerons complained – it was the Early on it was taken for granted that an alcohol policy was going to be created, which was what the Six expressed to other gathered countries at a Council of Europe meeting on August 16, 1967.

European Commission Press Release, IP/01/238, February 21, 2001.

reason for the exodus of some French wine-growers to California, for instance. In under a decade, a policy heavily tied up with French identity and seemingly carefully controlled by the French government was, by the end of the 1970s, largely the purview of the European Community’s institutions. The French government voluntarily and strategically decreased its role in its domestic wine industry, by first devolving power upwards to the Community via the CWP, and then, after the 1975 wine crisis, also downwards to local and regional groups.

I. French Agriculture: Costs and Conceptions The primary reason why the French government wished to do this was because subsidies to wine growers were expensive3 and they wanted to relieve themselves of a historicallyingrained system which had propped up key national industries at all costs. The French government has had a long history of ‘explicit, assertive, continuous, and comprehensive’4 state intervention, particularly with its post-war dirigiste economic policies, reaching its zenith in the late 1960s with the Fifth Plan, whose main objective was assuring the international competitiveness of French firms via government support. In the first few decades of their creation, the Chambers of Agriculture, for which legislation was enacted in 1920, were an advisory and consultative body in the regions; but since the 1950s, their role had increased considerably, becoming that of the ‘prime agencies of state intervention in agriculture, acting as coordinating bodies for structural reform programmes.’5 At the end of the 1960s, they were responsible for continuing to support the costs and structures of programmes which were ever increasing.

Cleary, Peasants, Politicians and Producers, 18.

Hayward, Industrial Entreprise and European Integration: From National to International Champions in Western Europe, 2.

Cleary, Peasants, Politicians and Producers, 21-32.

More broadly speaking, costs across the different agricultural sectors – not only in the wine industry – needed to be scaled down. Costs by the 1970s were becoming prohibitive: the French Ministry of Agriculture’s expenditure increased tenfold from 1950 to 1979 with massive spending on rural structural and social programmes.6 The wine industry had in many ways been treated by the French national government in the same way as their other national ‘industry champions.’ Political scientist Jack Hayward’s assertions about the changing pressure and operation of French national industries are reflected in important ways in the wine industry. He lists serious changes that major firms in Europe have faced since the 1960s, of which several affected the wine trade: national firms were increasingly losing their market monopoly and national protection; when in deficit, firms that used to have recourse to overt or covert subsidisation were more required to be self-sustaining; and these firms were being pushed to adopt more international strategies by contracting transnational alliances.

However, there are two vital differences between the industries Hayward uses to exemplify these trends and the wine industry: first, French wine groups largely had no recourse to international capital markets if the government or national banks were unwilling or unable to help, and second, whereas other industrial firms were ‘no longer the...projections of national identity, so that the sometime national champions of the 1960s have perforce tended to acquire a transnational identity’, the wine industry remained – necessarily, and by choice – rooted in France.7 The twentieth century was a time of transformation and upheaval for not only wine growers but for French farmers in general. There were attempts by the Vichy government, and indeed successive French governments, to protect the component of ‘rural idyll’ in the French identity. Mark Cleary’s work Peasants, Politicians, and Producers, in its attempts to trace the Ibid., 27.

Hayward, Industrial Entreprise and European Integration: From National to International Champions in Western Europe, 2.

development of peasants and in particular their organisations relative to the state and capitalism in twentieth-century France, dissolves the myth, stemming from economic generalisation, of ‘Rural France…as unified [or] monolithic.’8 Instead, he contends there were ‘huge spatial and social contrasts’ before World War I which were widened by both the shifting priorities of the French government and then the European Community.9 It is on the topic of the Community that Cleary’s otherwise excellent book gives little illumination – despite his repeated suggestions that the Community was important, his discussion of the Community or the Community’s impacts, direct or otherwise, on French farmers is limited.

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