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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 ad read ‘La filière viti-vinicole en danger: Les Européens sont surprenants...Ils ont inventé les Grands Vins et les ont fait découvrir au monde entier. Maintenant, ils s’apprêtent à tout faire pour en produire de moins en moinds...Les vignobles du monde entier sont ravis.’ Le Monde, October 5, 1994.

only highlighted that they had been too late – they had failed to recognise the potential agency of Brussels and thereby failed to foresee the shift in power centres of decisionmaking, which affected them when the policy began to affect quality wine producers in the 1980s and early 1990s. Bordeaux and Languedoc-Roussillon had also clashed over the issues of plantation rights; Bordeaux argued that it ought to have more of the French quota of plantations after planting restrictions introduced in 1976, on the basis that its wines contributed most to France’s exports. In response, the Languedoc-Rousillon reacted to this ‘depoliticizing of the issue of plantation rights...by invoking arguments of social justice’37 for their part in reducing vineyards to bring down France’s overall production.

The Rise of Subnational Actors and Change in the Profession of Winegrowing This important and notable deviation from previously well-entrenched French state control for a key cultural industry happened over a short period of time. At the beginning of the 1970s, after the Common Wine Policy had been created with very little input from nongovernmental groups, the French exercised careful control over the preparation of the French line for all of the wine-related groups and meetings. A representative preparatory meeting in October 1970 in advance of assorted Community wine discussions in a variety of forums was composed of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Secrétariat général des affaires européennes (SGCI), the tax directorate, fraud prevention agency, customs, and others, but without a single representative from the wine industry itself.38 By the end of the 1970s, a meeting like this would have been very unlikely. There were two key characteristics which differentiate national level meetings before ones at the Community at the end of the decade.

Carter and Smith, 'Revitalizing public policy approaches to the EU: 'territorial institutionalism', fisheries and wine,' 276.

'Groupe de travail préparatoire aux réunions viti-vinicole Communautaires,' meeting minutes. October 30, 1970. 19971469/133, AN.

The first was the presence of vignerons, through the success of a forceful push for inclusion by vignerons’ associations. Hardly a decade later, French vignerons were far more involved in both national discussions and European level discussions. The inclusion of these stakeholders in these kinds of political meetings on issues directly affecting them may in hindsight seem completely legitimate, but this would be a post-hoc rationalisation. Their legitimation happened in great part over the course of the 1970s, though in part also in the 1980s. These kinds of formal coordinating meeting structures were weakened in favour of one which allowed more flexible, more direct contact between different levels of governance.

–  –  –

As the mainstay of the Languedoc economy has long been wine-growing, the expression of regional identity tends to be bound up with the condition and political sentiments of the winegrowers in the area. The Languedoc-Roussillon area has had a history of opposition, as previously discussed. In particular, the character of the opposition is based on the idea of oppressed working-class people of the Occitan region who have had to repeatedly fight against the upper-class bureaucrats in Paris who attempt to harm their way of life through the imposition of capitalism and modernisation. In his classic work on the French peasantry, Henri Mendras argued that political changes engendered transformations in farming, markets, and businesses that then altered the mindset of the farmer.39 Certainly, regional consciousness was heightened by the European Community on a number of occasions because of wine policies. In response to the negotiations over the enlargements to include wine-growing countries Spain and Portugal, growers protested the Community with banners bearing the emblems of Occitan, such as the Occitan cross, as well as slogans written in the langue d’oc, Mendras, La fin des paysans: changements et innovations dans les sociétés rurales françaises.

the old dialect of the area, which few still spoke. The most popular slogans were ‘Volem Viure al Pais!’ (‘We Want to Live in Our Region!’) and ‘Volem Viure y Trahabar al Pais!’ (‘We Want to Live and Work in Our Region!’) The late 1970s saw a considerable swell in not only the learning and use of langue d’oc by young people, but a ‘micronationalist movement’ in the region based on cultural, political, and economic demands, expressed principally through demands regarding wine policy. 40 II. The Engagement of Actors at Different Levels This rise in regional consciousness was likewise accompanied by a rise in involvement beyond the region. While previously it was that many smallholding winegrowing families could subsist by having members of the household engage in small and occasional instances of remunerated work, 41 that model become much less sustainable after the changes implemented by the European Community through the Common Wine Policy. The Common Wine Policy enabled the rise of French sub-national and non-state actors in policy circles from which they were previously excluded. The story of the winegrowing profession from the late 1960s through to the 1980s is also about a movement from being a member of the French peasantry, as a farmer, to being a vigneron-vinificateur. The successful ‘neo-viticulteurs’ adjusted to the fact that they were now part of a socio-professional world which was defined by international market flows, global economics, and their rise in specialisation, which occurred through the 1970s.42 Michael Keating, 'The Rise and Decline of Micronationalism in Mainland France,' Political Studies 33, no. 1 (March 1985).

Lem, Cultivating Dissent: Work, Identity and Praxis in Rural Languedoc.

William Genieys, 'Le retournement du Midi viticole,' Pôle Sud 9(1998): 17.

Those who were most able to cope with the changes were those who could and were willing to adjust to the quality of policy and who were able ‘à faire le lien entre ce qui est sectoriellement possible (niveau central et européen) et ce qui territorialement probable (niveau local et régional).’43 This was not an easy task, for these ‘neo-viticulteurs’ had an expanded professional world with expanded responsibilities: they had to understand new, complicated, and changing wine policy from the Community – for which many joined cooperatives to gain help in understanding and implementing – and they were required to stay up-to-date on new scientific or technical approaches to wine-making, or possibly learn about marketing, and they might need to attend the conferences of regional or national organisations they were a part of, like the Mouvement pour la défense de l’exploitation familiale. Those who did this well became the veritable leaders of the viticultural movement in the Languedoc. For instance, the concentration of representations in Antoine Verdale, previously discussed in chapter three, made his ability to negotiate these new spaces far more efficient. As a leader in the Aude in the 1970s, Verdale was the president of both the vigneron association Fédération Départementale des Caves Coopératives de l'Aude (a post he held until 1992) and the governmental Chambre d’Agriculture de l’Aude. With this territorial legitimacy established,44 he then went on to hold several regional and national posts, such as President of the Fédération Régionale des Caves and President of the Confédération Nationale des Caves Coopératives in 1980, and even President of the Groupement de la Coopération Viticole de la CEE in 1986.

However, there were side effects to this inclusion in policymaking which some wine industry leaders may not have foreseen. The relationship between professional agricultural organisations, like ONIVIT or the groupements de producteurs, and the French national Ibid., 11.

Ibid., 13.

government grew more important in the 1970s as the former began to take part in the restructuring policies of the government. However, the role of the professional agricultural organisations in these policies resulted in an uncomfortable contradiction: their mandate was to represent and defend the interests of all farmers in their purview, and yet they were also complicit, by adopting these measures, in the elimination of some of these farmers.45 This rise in sub-national actors attempting to reach Brussels was accompanied by another kind of change, which was the rising challenge within France to dominant powerbrokers in the 1970s, most often a result of a new multiplicity of organisations, particularly specialist organisations. FNSEA was the foremost national syndical group in France, whose desire to vigorously push forward with modernising structural programmes threatened smalllandholding farmers. In turn, small farmers used the vehicle of the Mouvement de défense des exploitants familiaux (MODEF), originally formed to protect small farmers in 1959 from the tyranny of FNSEA and national agricultural policies, to provide an alternative syndical organisation. They had modest success in the 1960s, but in the 1970 and 1976 elections they clearly reached a significantly larger audience. In 1970, they expanded from previously only presenting candidates in the south and west to presenting them in 64 different departments, where they gained almost 33% of votes cast therein, as well as representation in 23 departmental Chambers of Agriculture. Six years later, they gained a quarter of the vote in 71 departments.46 The importance of the European Community and the Common Wine Policy to vignerons was that it provided a new referent against which to measure, compare, and act. MODEF was primarily motivated against the European Community, fiercely outspoken on the issue of the See, for example, Jacques Cloarec, 'Un exemple d'intervention de l'Etat: le financement public de l'agriculture,' Etudes rurales 69(1978).

Cleary, Peasants, Politicians and Producers, 137.

widening of the markets to include Spain and Portugal in particular, and derived much of its support and power base from those farmers believing their products had been adversely affected because of greater exposure through the Community. Unsurprisingly therefore, MODEF has a strong support base in the south with producers of wine and fruit. Whether or not the European Community was actually ultimately responsible for the adverse effects on these producers in the 1970s and indeed later on is not of primary importance in terms of assessing its impact on the behaviours and beliefs of these farmers; it was enough that these farmers believed themselves to be negatively affected by the Community – principally via the combination of the free market flow, monetary fluctuations, grubbing up policies, and modernisation pressures sometimes inconsistent with needs of small-time farmers – and correspondingly, reacted with it as a new referent.

Despite the increased political reach of Midi vignerons and their leaders, who were agitating for a change to their sometimes desperate situation in the 1970s, on the whole they did not develop warm ties at either the French or Brussels levels. Instead, the process through the 1970s increased their sense of self and led to heightened regional feeling.47 An awakening of Occitanian consciousness led to the popular slogan ‘Volem viure al pais!’ (‘We want to live in our region!’), which was written on picket signs and spray painted on buildings across the Languedoc. Some scholars, like Winnie Lem, have argued that the Languedoc-Roussillon wine-growers, despite the forces of capitalism and state modernisation, have not abandoned their struggles to keep their regional identity and way of life.48 Robert C. Ulin is in agreement, stating that a long, embedded tradition of political radicalism has helped the Languedoc keep its identity.49 This thesis agrees with Lem and Ulin, but goes further to say Loubère, The Wine Revolution in France, 264.

Lem, Cultivating Dissent: Work, Identity and Praxis in Rural Languedoc.

Robert C. Ulin, 'Work as Cultural Production: Labour and Self-Identity Among Southwest French WineGrowers,' Royal Anthropological Institute 8(2002).

that it was in considerable measure because of, not despite, the various forces imposed by the European Community that the Midi vignerons reacted as strongly as they did to keep and even augment their regional distinctiveness.

The Common Wine Policy and the European Turn to Quality in Agricultural Policy The two broader changes which were in part brought about by the CWP – the voluntary decrease in the role of French institutions in an industry in which they had previously had tight control, and the rise of sub-national and non-state actors amongst the Midi vignerons – together fed into a broader change on the direction of agricultural policies in the European Community. The desire of the French government, who were, along with Italy, overwhelmingly the dominant group in Brussels negotiations on matters of wine, to avoid insulting or upsetting the vignerons led them to adopt the policy of an emphasis on quality in viti-viniculture. Rather than frame the situation as one in which unpopular or even outright mediocre wine was attacked through various Brussels policies to reduce table wine production, which would have involved dealing with political high dudgeon, the public packaging of the policy involved a relentless stream of jargon and justification which focused on the term ‘quality’.

This continued intensive use of the term ‘quality’ by the French government in negotiations and debates on the wine policy, both in Brussels and domestically, eventually spilled over to discussions on the direction of agriculture in Europe in general, though this occurred in earnest in the late 1980s, with the introduction of Green Europe. The influence of the wine policy was felt in future discussions and justifications of the geographical indications regime in the European Community, which from its formal induction in 1992 onwards, was to be a distinctive feature of the European Union, and one which caused the EU to face several clashes in the international arena, as the legality of such a protectionist regime was debated.

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