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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 desire, however, to alleviate the increasing costs and support structures in the wine industry, as in other agricultural industries, ran against several other French ideals that made dismantling or even reducing the state apparatuses that supported table wine a difficult and delicate task indeed. The French government’s policy of aménagement du territoire, for which there is no accurate English translation, was created to manage French national territory through spatial planning taking into account community, landscape, and identity. In the more poetic words of Eugène Cladius-Petit, who presented the seminal piece ‘Pour un plan national d’aménagement du territoire’ in 1950, which guided resultant aménagement policies in France, the policy was to ‘substituer un nouvel ordre à l'ancien, de créer une meilleure disposition, une meilleure répartition dans l'espace de ce qui constitue les éléments de fonctionnement d'une société ; meilleure par rapport aux buts, c'est-à-dire non seulement à des fins économiques, mais davantage encore pour le bien-être et l'épanouissement de la Cleary, Peasants, Politicians and Producers, 8.


population ; termes vagues mais qui définissent néanmoins clairement la finalité sociale, humaine, de l'aménagement du territoire.’10 An essential piece of this work involves preserving ‘a network of agriculturally-oriented villages throughout much of [France].’11 This rather uniquely French state mission was called upon to justify the continuation of state-aide for agriculture, and in particular, for small farmers, which the Midi table wine growers very largely were. In this conception of the role of farmers – against the broader imperatives of aménagement – they were not only providing a role by producing food for the state and playing a role in its economic machinery, but they were also a part of the fabric of the nation, by being keepers of the rural and traditional ways of life and the guardians and tenders of the landscape. Michel Débatisse, who was president of the Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Exploitants d'Agricoles (FNSEA) from 1971 to 1978, expressed this very sentiment by saying that the role of the farmer needed to be protected by the state for it went beyond food production and security – it was also about ‘de l’occupation du territoire, de la présence des agriculteurs dans toutes les régions, d’une certaine conception des relations de l’homme et de son travail, du mélange de l’économique et du social, que je partage avec d’autres, et qui, selon moi, est gage d’efficacité (pas seulement économique) dans un certain tissu social.’12 The French cultural conception of agriculture as a social good is crucial to understanding and explaining the Midi reaction.13 The Midi reaction can only be understood against this larger Eugène Claudius-Petit, 'Pour un plan national d'aménagement du territoire - 1950,' in Les grands textes de l'aménagement du territoire et de la décentralisation, ed. Christel Alvergne, Pierre Musso, and Délégation à l'aménagement du territoire et à l'action régionale (DATAR) (Paris Documentation française, 2003).

Susan Carol Rogers, 'Farming Visions: Agriculture in French Culture,' French Politics, Culture and Society 18, no. 1 (2000): 57.

Pierre Alphandery, Pierre Bitoun, and Yves Dupont, Les champs du départ. Une France rurale sans paysans?

(Paris: La Découverte, 1989), 252.

See for instance, Sheingate, The Rise of the Agricultural Welfare State: Institutions and Interest Group Power in the United States, France, and Japan.; Rogers, 'Farming Visions: Agriculture in French Culture.'; Marion framework, which contained normative ideas about the appropriate place of agricultural in the state, and the ideal relationship between the state and farmer. In the French collective consciousness is a ‘belief that agriculture is not reducible to mere economic calculus or tradable merchandise. It is also about past and future identity, a national heritage in which all French people are implicated as trustees.’14 This belief does not merely reflect an idyllic attachment to heritage – it has had and continues to have tangible ramifications. In the early 1990s, this French belief ground the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) to a halt for three years. It has been used by politicians in making various stands (in the same vein, for example, are Gaullist Jacques Chirac’s arguments that ‘Les actuelles négotiations au sein du GATT sont capitales pour l’avenir de notre pays et ne peuvent se réduire à quelques ratios statistiques….On ne négocie pas son identité comme on négocie une marchandise’15). Likewise, it has gained great salience in the French public sphere – the rhetoric, wide-ranging appeal, and credibility of arguments that draw upon the idea of agriculture as not only bound up with national French identity, but as ‘l’âme de la nation’ have caused the French for instance to believe that their agricultural system is a world apart from the American agricultural system, despite similarities between the two.16 It is the strength of the ‘cultural resonance of farming…in the political life’17 of France that accounts for the persistence of the agricultural welfare state there and then the stake in a Europeanlevel agricultural support system.

Conceptions of French agriculture were so important that appeals to it provoked deep and defensive reactions from the French. Central to this idea was the symbolism of the French Demossier, 'Culinary heritage and produits de terroir in France: food for thought,' in Recollections of France, ed.

Sarah Blowen, Marion Demossier, and Jeanine Picard (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2000)..

Rogers, 'Farming Visions: Agriculture in French Culture,' 51.

Libération, October 22, 1993.

Rogers, 'Farming Visions: Agriculture in French Culture,' 62-63.

Sheingate, The Rise of the Agricultural Welfare State: Institutions and Interest Group Power in the United States, France, and Japan, 34.

family farmer. The exalted ‘French peasant’ was seen in the nineteenth century as being the guarantor of social harmony and in the twentieth century as being a national champion and steward of the rural landscape against sprawling and unsightly industrialisation.18 This conception of agriculture has led to the continuing belief in the duty of the state to provide for and protect agriculture – Susan Carol Rogers summarises this aptly by saying that ‘making the claim that something is necessary to general social health amounts to a demand that it be made available by all to the collectivity and provides justification for subsidies or full coverage from the public treasury, as well as management by public authorities operating in the collective interest. As illustrated by contemporary French discussions of agriculture, once it has been established that a service is crucial to the well-being of society, the obvious solution to a perceived crisis in its delivery is more or better state intervention’.19 This, then, explains the thoroughly French habit that wine growers were engaging in when turning repeatedly to the state for help throughout the 1970s. The problem they faced during this time was that they were in the midst of the transfer of jurisdiction over policies related to their profession to the European Community, which was complicated, uneven, and often – especially in the first half of the decade – misunderstood by locally-focused Midi farmers.

But Roger’s assertion that the European Community ‘has not been notably inclined, to date, to treat agriculture as a social issue to any significant degree’20 is incorrect. The European Community from the 1950s to the 1970s justified the high costs of its agricultural policy by appealing to images of a cultural Europe fortified with family farmers.21 This thesis has argued that the Community’s policies in so doing were in good part responsible for the scale of the wine lake. Despite the fact that the French ideals about agriculture and state Ibid., 35.

Rogers, 'Farming Visions: Agriculture in French Culture,' 64.

Ibid., 65.

Knudsen, Farmers on Welfare: The Making of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy.

intervention was not entirely congruent with those held by all Community member states, the Community also justified the high costs of its wine policy on the premise that they were supporting family farmers. The desire to protect the family farmer ran against the desire to permit the free trade of agricultural produce within the EEC.

The perceived need to maintain a comparable standard of living for wine growers drove the French national government to continue to support the wine industry through various subsidies, even though it privately admitted that ‘notre principal intérêt commercial se trouve dans l’exportation des vins de qualité’.22 It was to this point that the Ministry of Finance spoke, during the course of the negotiations for a community wine policy, when it maintained its position on separating discussions in the Community negotiations which had been on wine as a totality into one on table wine and one on quality wine. However, the Ministry of Agriculture was particularly against this proposal, citing the need to address both together to create ‘une véritable politique commune des vins’ but in the end, the Ministry of Finance’s proposal was carried forward in the French position to the Community and ultimately, in the post-1975 environment, enacted.23 This shift in focus to their ‘principal intérêt commercial’ of quality wines emerged clearly through documents gathered that discuss the French side of the CWP negotiations from 1967 to 1970 in chapter one.

–  –  –

This process required a decrease in the role of policy-making sectors of the government – predominantly the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance – that were previously 'Compte rendu: Organisation commune du marché viti-vinicole.' Secrétaire Général du Comité Interministériel, January 19, 1968. Affaires économiques et financières: Coopération économique, 714 (1967AD.


heavily involved in all facets of the French wine industry. The handover of the reins of French table wine took place in incremental phases through the 1970s and was a systematic, voluntary decrease in the role of the French government. From 1967 to 1970, the French government negotiated to have the wine policy handled elsewhere, and their desire for this to happen was great enough that it overrode both concerns about wine’s fit in the Common Agricultural Policy (though importantly, wine’s inclusion was generally taken for granted by all parties) and the French government’s dislike of the Italian government’s proposed mechanisms for the CWP, which were more popular with other member states during Community negotiations. From 1970 to 1974, the French government prepared legislation dismantling governmental control over the French national wine industry, which were quickly pushed through under the pressure faced in 1975. The first few months of 1975 saw the spike in Italian imports and, soon after, the start of the wine war. In June 1975, the French interprofessional law was enacted, and in the summer of 1975, the French national government, scrambling for solutions to pacify the angry and violent viticulteurs demonstrating in the south, placed a tax on Italian wines which violated terms of the Treaty of Rome and caused the country public embarrassment. In 1976, the French government encouraged the vignerons to engage in policy themselves by creating a national wine office, structured to bring together producers, merchants, and other representative groups of the wine family to respond to and enact Brussels policies. In 1977 and 1978, French delegations in Brussels pushed for more measures at the Community level for wine, certainly ones that were stricter and would decrease the amount of table wine produced, including price support systems, during a round of major revisions to the CWP. Through 1979 and 1980, the French continued to relinquish control while pushing for quality wine.

I. De-politicising Wine: The Encouragement of Technocratic Decision-Making When analysing the decreased role of French government institutions in the wine industry through the 1970s, a major theme that emerges is one in which various government officials attempted to de-politicise the issue of wine during this process. They did this predominantly by trying to develop a more technical role for government in the industry. The national costs of agriculture in general were indeed high, as they were across Western Europe, but table wines especially so because modernisation and improved technology were contributing to an increase in volume output, but sociological changes were decreasing demand and consumption of table wine. These kinds of pressures were absent or far more minor in other agricultural markets. While there was a general surge in production in most of the agricultural markets with the implementation of the CAP, demand was fairly level, while table wine was particularly affected by declining demand. With the French government having good evidence that table wine overproduction would likely only worsen, as outlined in chapter two, they wished both to alleviate themselves of the pressure of continuing to pay out to wine growers but wanted to avoid being immortalised in posterity as the government that had taken negative, if necessary, action against vignerons. In a bid to reach the same intended outcome however, in the form of less production, the French government attempted to de-politicise their role, transforming it into a more bureaucratic one, whereby decisions were made in Brussels (however unpopular), and the French government dutifully implemented them, as per their Community commitments.

This tactic went fairly untested in the early 1970s, though a few particularly large harvests in 1970, 1973, and 1974 resulted in some minor successes for the French government, whereby the built-in requirement to negotiate year-by-year allowed them easily to argue for more financial aid from FEOGA, the principal instrument of Community funding. They eventually created a national wine office to de-politicise and decrease their role further, moving powers of implementation and some degree of policy-making to the socio-professionals themselves.

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