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France: CRAV wine militants issue ultimatum

By Chris Mercer , 21-May-2007

French wine militants have warned the country's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, there will be more violence if he does not offer more support to the sector.

Several balaclava-clad men claiming to represent militant winemaker group, Comite d'Action Regionale Viticole (CRAV), made their threats in a video passed to the France 3 television channel in Languedoc Roussillon. Addressing the new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, they said: "If in one month nothing has changed and prices have not risen, then the winemakers will emerge from the maquis (hinterlands) and act." More than half of Languedoc winemakers reported a loss last year, despite success for some of the region's new brands. And tension is mounting in the region as it prepares to mark one hundred years since the height of the 1907 winemakers' revolt, which saw hundreds of thousands of winemakers and local supporters take to the streets. Several people died when the government called in army troops. Vintners today should reignite the spirit of 1907, said the speaker in the recent CRAV video. "Winemakers, we call on you to revolt. We are at the point of no return," he said, from a location on the border between the Herault and Aude provinces. "If Sarkozy does not have the sense to support the wine sector, he will be responsible for what happens." He used the word 'maquis', which is a reference to members of the French Resistance in who his in the countryside and hills during World War Two. The movement was particularly strong in Languedoc Roussillon. Those sympathetic to CRAV also describe them as a "resistance movement", fighting against price cuts of big supermarkets and wine merchants. The group has been active intermittently since 1907 and has included both women and men as members. It is thought more violence is likely in the wake of EU plans to reform Europe's wine sector. Formal proposals, to be announced on 4 July, may involve ripping up 400,000 hectares of vines and Languedoc Roussillon is expected to be one of the areas worst hit. CRAV's latest threat comes only a few weeks after claiming responsibility for minor explosions at several supermarkets in Languedoc. No one was injured, but one source close to CRAV has told BeverageDaily that may change. He said central leaders had always warned against injuring people, but their power has disintegrated and splinter factions containing more radical elements were now acting on their own. It is understood the group contained more than 800 members last year.

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