«The London School of Economics and Political Science Wine In Their Veins: France and the European Community’s Common Wine Policy, 1967-1980 Maria ...»
Ultimately, the debates and discussions around the CWP seemed to have fed into a broader trend in the European Community toward an increased attention to quality of goods, and in particular, encouraging the production of quality goods as a way of increasing the value of and decreasing the volume of production. This final observation is unfortunately outside the scope of this thesis to justify or analyse fully, but is a potentially rich area for further research.
To recap what this thesis has covered, the introduction presented the overall thesis question, which is ‘What impact did the European Community have on table wine growers in the Midi region in France in the 1970s?’ This initial chapter also established the link between agriculture, the French state, and French identity. It brought together secondary literature primarily from anthropology, sociology, and political science to demonstrate the great importance of agriculture in France, but beyond this, how conceptualisations of agriculture and wine more specifically have affected the sense of self in France. Frenchness has long been tied up with the myth of the roots of a rural peasant idyll, and the place of wine in this popular image is highly symbolic and crucial.
Chapter one explored the emergence of the integrated wine policy at the European level. This chapter argued that one of the more complicated integration aspirations of the Common Agricultural Policy was its wine policy, which required the nation-states of the Six to consider relinquishing sovereignty over their wine industries. The Six, led by major wine producers France and Italy, tackled what became an increasingly complicated issue on laying down ground rules for a common wine market and its operation, given nationally divergent policies and interests. It traced the difficult and lengthy negotiations in the European Economic Community over this policy from 1967 to the beginning of 1970, when the policy – the last of the major Common Market Organisations originally discussed in the Stresa Conference – was finally established.
During the negotiations over the European Community's Common Wine Policy, the European Community vignerons were not legitimate policy players. They were largely kept at arm's length by elected and non-elected government officials alike while decisions were made by French representatives in Brussels. The Common Wine Policy was largely a FrancoItalian creation. It was termed a compromise but principally took the liberal shape that the Italians preferred.
The thesis then looked at the first decade of the Common Wine Policy, which has two distinct phases. The first five years of the CWP was a liberal policy which focused mostly on shortterm policies to help beleaguered farmers with abundant harvests, mostly via rounds of cost distillation and storage, as well as direct monetary aid with pricing mechanisms. In the last half of the decade, the policy became more restrictive and planning became about longer term structural changes to reduce certain vineyards and wine production.
Chapter two analysed the Common Wine Policy at the Brussels level in the 1970s, focusing focusing in particular on the major event of the decade, the Franco-Italian Wine War in 1975.
This first major stress test of the Common Wine Policy occurred as a result of the sudden flood of Italian table wines in France in January and February of 1975. This spike occurred because of a depreciation of the lira against the franc, creating a more favorable environment for import of Italian goods. This table wine was brought in by French négociants, who cut French wine with more alcoholic Italian wine to produce a product with higher alcohol (which generally sold better than those with lower alcohol percentage.) This propelled the Franco-Italian wine war.
This so-called wine war lasted over the course of 1975, which resulted in lengthy and stressful negotiations in the European Community, and cast concern over not only the Community's Common Agricultural Policy but the European integration project as a whole.
The French national government, unable to satisfy either the demands of the Community or of their vignerons, initially reacted by instituting an illegal tax on Italian wines, which further deepened the seriousness of the situation. The French were arguably the leaders of the European Community project in the 1970s, and were in breach of its commitments to free circulation of goods. Given that integration was largely along economic lines at the time (with the hope of increasing spillover into political integration), the effect of the Common Wine Policy reached far beyond the ken of bickering French and Italian wine professionals.
The French tax on Italian wines caused them embarrassment when they were called to the European Court of Justice for violating Article 170 the Treaty of Rome, regarding the fulfillment of obligations contained therein, the first time a member state had been so accused. The French were found guilty and were forced to pay reparations to the Italians. The incident prompted a round of negotiations over foundational aspects of the Common Wine Policy, during which time it was heavily revised to be closer in substance to the desires of the French delegations. The CWP became much more restrictive – it curbed planting rights, introduced grubbing up, and laid down more rules about what could be planted and where.
Chapter three analysed the local and regional reactions in the Languedoc-Roussillon to the changes instituted at the European level from 1975 – 1976. The Wine Crisis prompted the beginning of the genuine engagement of Midi vignerons with the Common Wine Policy. The Languedoc-Roussillon region was where much of the violence in the Midi occurred and was also by far the greatest single contributor to the EEC ‘wine lake.’ Wine production had a long history in this region, was central to its economy, and to the livelihood of millions of its viticulteurs. The CWP had a marked effect on table wine growers in this area for the policy predominantly involved changes for table wine. The Midi vignerons – whose reactions to the Community policy in the 1970s are comprehensively represented in academic work for the first time in this thesis – saw the CWP and actors in Brussels as being responsible for their plight, wherein cheaper and comparable quality Italian table wines were flooding into the French market. They reacted in the initial period from 1975 – 1976 by acting against the state, lobbying in particular the Ministry and Minister of Agriculture to help them. The Ministry of Agriculture, together with top level officials, in a hasty attempt to pacify demonstrations in the south, responded by placing an illegal tax on Italian wines. They thereafter created a national office for wine to allow vignerons to be engaged in the policymaking and policy-implementation process for table wines. However, this project was not sufficient to address the concerns of vignerons. Despite some successes, the gap between producers and merchants – where for those in the south it is a particularly clear and old divide – as well as the perceived gap between south and north proved too wide at times for productive consensus.
Chapter four continued the analysis of local and regional reactions to the Common Wine Policy, and in particular looked at the way the CWP affected organisational behaviour amongst Midi vignerons. The interventionist turn in the CWP from 1976 involved Brussels more deeply with the Midi vignerons, and after the breakdown of an already rocky relationship with Paris, most vividly captured in the widespread condemnation by Midi vignerons and politicians of Minister of Agriculture Christian Bonnet following a fateful radio interview in December 1976, these vignerons began to organise at the local and regional level to lobby at the Community level. This did not mean that various viticulteur groups no longer took their grievances to French officials, but rather that they realised that many of the policy decisions affecting them were being taken at Brussels and they felt they ought to engage at that level. This was significant because the French had traditionally had a bottleneck to the Community50 – various vignerons broke with this carefully structured chain of authority to assert themselves in Brussels. They were not always successful – but this change was important for it demonstrated that they felt they had the ability and legitimacy to act at this level without asking for or receiving permission from the official French representatives. There were also attempts by viticultural leaders in the Midi, even if weakly, to engage directly with their Italian counterparts, which was an active and unconventional role for representatives of an industry in a French region to undertake. Taken together, these Knudsen, Farmers on Welfare: The Making of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy, 87. Also, Anne Dulphy and Christine Manigand, 'Le Secrétarait général du Comité interministériel pour les questions de coopération économique européenne,' Histoire@Politique, Politique, culture et société May - August no. 8 (2009).
actions were a subversion, even if unintentional, of traditional diplomatic and state-based politics and relations.
Chapter five brought together the previous chapters under broader themes, and in particular looked at how the first decade of the CWP changed relationships between different groups at the European, national, and local level. It argued that the changes occurred in two places – first, in the French government’s decision to reduce its own control over its national wine industry, and second, in subnational and non-state actors playing a greater role in policy circles.
This thesis has generally made a distinction between different actors and organisations at three levels of governance – the local and regional (or subnational), the national French level, and the European level. This use of levels of governance in analysis is not uncommon in political science, where it is referred to as multi-level governance or MLG. Likewise, the method is not without its detractors. Caitríona Carter and Andy Smith have argued that MLG is too simplistic to explain the dynamics at play in European Union policy-making, and they particularly emphasize that in France for instance, the French national position is often defined by well-placed socio-professional actors.51 This may be true now in contemporary accounts, but this was not the case in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This suggests that a period of legitimisation was required before the process evolved and could be understood the Carter and Smith, 'Revitalizing public policy approaches to the EU: 'territorial institutionalism', fisheries and wine.' way Carter and Smith have argued. Using these different levels as ‘stages’ that different groups accessed, as this thesis has done, is relevant in the 1970s because these different political levels were still clearly defined then. The end of the 1970s saw a move toward a different kind of order based on a new understanding of what actors had authority, and this was when the ‘who’ become increasing important relevant to the ‘where’.
The rise of cooperatives and the changes in the political relationships between actors during the 1970s has had a lasting effect. Commenting on the contemporary politics of wine, Tyler Colman comments that: ‘Surprisingly, voluntary associations have taken the lead in governing the production of quality wine [in France]. The fact that more Americans are “bowling alone,” in the words of the social critic Robert Putnam, makes this finding doubly surprising….But what escapes many English-speaking observers is that those regulations are imposed by the producers themselves, not by “heavy-handed regulators.”’52 This work helps explain some aspects of the current state of the Languedocien wine industry.
It supports, for instance, the work of Chiffoleau et al., who suggest in their work that cooperative governance does not only allow for collective learning but also for the preservation of a local and regional identity.53 In particular, their work on contemporary wine cooperatives in the Languedoc-Roussillon observed that ‘local networks and clusters have specific characteristics when agricultural cooperatives are concerned’. They note for instance these wine cooperatives are more motivated to act with regard to ‘common cooperative values, rules and culture’ which explains why they are interested in cooperating with other Tyler Colman, Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 39.
Yuna Chiffoleau et al., 'Networks, Innovation and Performance - Evidence from a Cluster of Wine Cooperatives (Languedoc, South of France),' in Vertical Markets and Cooperative Hierarchies: The Role of Cooperatives in the Agri-Food Industry, ed. Kostas Karantininis and Jerker Nilsson (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007). See especially p. 54.
cooperatives rather than investor-owned firms that, while riskier, could be much more profitable. The authors remark, but are not able to explain, how this is particularly pronounced in the case of older, traditional cooperatives. The wine cooperatives they mean are those with longer histories, such as the many that were born in the 1970s. At least part of the explanation for this lies in the story told in this thesis of the struggle of the decade and the rise of cooperatives in that atmosphere.
This thesis has tried in part to make some careful – but not overt – additions to our understanding of identity, and some methodological discussion is in order. The upswing over the last decade in research on European identity has been interesting and troublesome. The topic of identity in the context of important historical European change can be fruitful, pertinent, and above all, fascinating. Yet the major standard works on identity are currently in sociology and political science.54 Social scientists bring a different set of tools to bear on the topic, and their academic assumptions can make it hard for historians to relate to their work.