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Militants bomb co-ops in south of France

Militant French wine protesters have exploded two bombs at a co-op headquarters in Languedoc.

Fumes of stale wine, shattered glass and burnt out debris remained

where the front of the co-operative union building for the Herault

area stood only 24 hours ago. A similar scene was visible at the

neighbouring union in Narbonne.

‘The deadline has passed,’ said an anonymous caller, believed to

belong to a faction of wine militant group, the CRAV. His words appear

to be a reference to the recent televised ultimatum given by several

balaclava-clad activists to French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

But instead of government offices, it was fellow French

winemakers who took the first blow – revealing a growing power

struggle between moderates and hardliners in Languedoc.

The two blasts, which occurred around 1am Tuesday, followed a

passionate regional protest by around 300 winemakers against EU plans

to rip out vines and reform Europe’s wine sector.

‘I heard a huge bang and thought an aeroplane had crashed,’ said Louis

Terral, 76, who lives opposite the Herault union building, outside


Both bombs are considered revenge attacks, after union officials

refused to join Monday’s protest. Several protestors spoke of a

divide in the wine community.

‘It is a symbolic act by a minority,’ said Boris Calmette, president

of the Herault union.

‘We believe it is important to have good working relations with those

in Brussels and Paris, but unfortunately certain people have more

“traditional” views.’

Those at Monday’s protest took a tougher stance, referring to the huge

winemaker uprising in 1907. ‘Just like people were here in 1907, now

we are here again to fight for our way of life,’ said François

Thiebaud, of the leftwing Modef union.

No one was injured in the recent bomb attacks, but some wonder how

long that will last.

One ex-CRAV member told Decanter.com: ‘It is a dangerous situation.

The CRAV has disintegrated into small groups of radicals in different

areas. All it will take is one person with a gun.’

It is feared there will be more violence as debate on EU wine reform

begins in earnest.

Critics say there are simply too many winemakers in Languedoc selling

low quality wine.

Mariann Fischer Boel, European agriculture commissioner, announced her

proposals Wednesday to re-launch EU wines on world markets and drain

the bloc’s surplus. These included a plan to grub up 200,000ha

(hectares) of vines, and to abolish planting rights by 2013.

Written by Chris Mercer

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