EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has cancelled a peacemaking trip to the Languedoc after being told to remain in Brussels, it has emerged.
Fischer Boel had been invited to meet wine representatives of the southern French region on 21-22 June, but had to pull out due to urgent World Trade Organisation talks.
She had planned to use the visit to explain her wine reforms to local wine leaders in the wake of her controversial plans for the sector which include grubbing-up swathes of vines throughout Europe, curbing chaptalisation and restricting planting in a bid to stem over production and reduce subsidies.
‘She wants to explain her position,’ said EU spokesperson Michael Mann. ‘There’s been a bit of a misunderstanding, shall we say.’
Mann insisted that Fischer Boel had not cancelled the trip and that it had been ‘postponed’. He said that a rescheduled date had been proposed in early September following an ‘intense’ July and EU August holidays.
She had been due to meet Georges Frêche, president of the Languedoc-Roussilon region and Jean Huillet, head of the regional winemaker’s union. Neither could be reached for comment.
French wine website vitisphere.com suggested that recent activity by the militant wine group CRAV may have had something to do with Fischer Boel’s decision to pull out of the meeting.
Mann said that any suggestion that CRAV’s recent activities had any bearing on the meeting’s annulment was ‘utter nonsense’ and ‘absolute rubbish’.
CRAV recently issued a sinister one-month ultimatum to new French premier Nicholas Sarkozy, saying that if he did not move to help the sector, they would not be responsible for the events that followed.
Written by Oliver Styles