European Union Conflict: The British Beef Controversy

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European Union Conflict: The British Beef Controversy

The Conflict

In March 1996, scientists discovered a connection between Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome, a debilitating and ultimately fatal disease in humans. The European Union (E.U.) banned the export of British beef to E.U. member states in an effort to contain the disease. Even after the ban was lifted, France continued to prevent the import of British beef.


  • The United Kingdom is a late and ambivalent addition to the European Union.
  • France and other E.U. members fear being overwhelmed and bullied by the United Kingdom and worry that the United Kingdom's special relationship with the United States will allow the United States greater influence in the European Union
  • Prior to England joining the European Union, France was the leading E.U. nation.


  • U.K. participation in the European Union has undermined some British industry, due to increased competition.
  • The United Kingdom resents its financial obligations to the European Union, in particular payments for agricultural subsidies to other nations.

Many observers of international affairs have identified the European Union (E.U.) as a rising center of power in the contemporary world. Since the end of World War II, the nations of Europe have made much progress toward laying their historical animosities to rest. By the 1990s, most of the continent had developed into a large free-trade zone, and a common currency, the euro, was introduced on January 1, 1999.

The process of European integration, however, has not been without problems. The March 1996 discovery of a connection between the infection of British cattle with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or "Mad Cow Disease," vache folle in French) and the fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome (CJS) in humans led the European Commission (the governing body of the European Union) and the European Parliament to ban the export of British beef to E.U. member states or to any other nation. BSE causes sponge-like holes to form in the brain, causing disorientation, lack of coordination, and, eventually, death. CJS is an extremely rare human disease. An increased occurrence of CJS in the United Kingdom led scientists to determine that the consumption of meat from an infected cow can transmit the disease to humans. France resisted the further sale of British beef most vociferously and continues its boycott even though British cattle farmers have instituted changes and culled herds, and even though beef production in Britain has been scientifically proven to be safe. By 1999 the British government threatened to sue France in the European Court over its decision to restrict Britain's access to its agricultural markets. The political controversy drew serious criticism from British farmers and their supporters against the sweeping powers of European institutions to influence their livelihoods.

Historical Background

Europe After World War II

The contention over the export of British beef is only one symptom of larger problems in the economic and political relations of the member countries of the European Union. Despite much "good-will" propaganda about the benefits of European unity for peace and democracy, underlying tensions have existed since the inception of an integrated Europe. These problems have contributed to the recent controversy over the trade in British beef and to other controversial issues relating to trade and political relations.

Perhaps the most important cause of this problem in modern international relations is that the European Union was much more the product of convenience and strategic thinking than it was of pacifism or simple goodwill. In the wake of World War II, most of Europe faced economic devastation and political uncertainty. The decisive wartime roles of the United States and the Soviet Union had radically altered the international political landscape. The multi-polar global system dominated by several competing European powers, which had existed for several centuries, had been eclipsed by the emergence of two new powers (the United States and the Soviet Union) whose relative positions in the world were dramatically enhanced by the war.

In harsh practical terms the two superpowers divided Europe between them without any significant challenger. Eastern Europe and half of Germany lay first under Soviet military occupation and then under Moscow's de facto political domination. Most of the western half of the continent had suffered absolute defeat at the hands of the Germans, years of exploitative German occupation, and then a painful and costly liberation by the United States and Britain. Western Germany and Italy had been devastated in the fighting and were conquered and occupied by Allied armies. Although Britain had emerged on the winning side of the conflict without having to endure German occupation, the physical destruction and financial strain it had to endure, along with continuing trends of relative economic decline, left it weak and vulnerable. Indeed, Britain was so weak that its postwar Labour Party government, led by Prime Minister Clement Attlee, could only conclude that the country could no longer afford many of its commitments overseas. In 1947 it granted independence to India, its largest and most important colonial possession and the chief source and symbol of Britain's world power status.

From the earliest days after the war, it was apparent that the reconstruction of European stability would require tremendous efforts and considerable expense. In order to facilitate recovery and prevent the rise of extreme political movements, the United States invested more than $13 billion in direct economic assistance to the various nations of Western Europe. Launching what came to be called the Truman Doctrine, direct American aid also provided for resistance to coercive attempts by Communists to seize power in Greece and Soviet attempts to extract diplomatic and military concessions from Turkey. The U.S. military also stood up to Communist expansionism when it supplied the blockaded western occupation zones of the city of Berlin for more than a year in 1948-49. The conclusion of a trans-Atlantic military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in April 1949 established a permanent U.S. role in the defense of Western Europe.

Early Support for European Integration

Consciousness of their vulnerability led the leaders of many European nations to believe that their best hope for future success lay in putting aside past differences and working toward a common future. Indeed, a politically and economically integrated Europe offered many solutions. Since it was becoming rather obvious that individual European nations simply could not afford whatever global presence they had maintained in better times, early proponents of European integration argued that a synthesis of European interests across the continent could provide a vehicle for Europeans to continue playing a major role in world affairs.

The German question was another major problem that European integration could address. After having come close to winning two world wars, Germany had proven its potential to establish rule over the entire continent. Fearful European politicians, especially the French, believed that Germany's inclusion in a multinational political and economic bloc would "drown" its military capabilities and any future political aspirations to dominate the continent. The politicians also believed that economic cooperation would open contentiously-defended markets and defuse the intense competition over resources that had historically characterized European diplomatic relations. The leaders of the West German state, which evolved from the Western Allies' occupation zones of Germany in August 1949, believed that the best way to secure the reunification of their divided country was to join forces with the United States and its European allies against communism.

These factors created a situation in which the interest of the two largest and most populous continental nations, France and West Germany, coincided. Movement toward political union offered to keep German ambitions under control while both nations could recover through the low defense spending that was consequent to their rapprochement and through free trade with each other and their neighbors. The first inter-European agreement, in fact, was the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951. Developed by French foreign minister Robert Schumann, the agreement provided for free trade in these two basic industrial commodities among France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In a shrewd strategic context all would have free and equal access to West Germany's much larger raw material reserves and prevent their monopolization by Germans. The creation of the European Atomic Energy Commission (Euratom) also established a pan-European organization to control the development and use of recently discovered nuclear power.

The European Economic Community

Enjoying economic success and rather impressive postwar recoveries, continental Europe moved closer toward political union. Beginning in 1952, the continental powers began to discuss plans for a common European defense alliance. European leaders saw military cohesion not only as a way to harmonize Europe politically and economically but also as a way toward the emergence of a united Europe as a world power. Although the plans for this European Defense Community (EDC) failed, mainly because French leaders believed that America's commitment to NATO would defend Western Europe while leaving it free to concentrate its own resources on domestic economic development, it was nevertheless indicative of the logic behind further integration. By 1957 the six member states of the Coal and Steel Community signed a series of treaties in Rome that created a free-trade zone among them in all commodities. Taking effect on January 1, 1958, the European Economic Community (EEC) created a common market, the importance of which was established by essentially the same arguments advanced in favor of the Coal and Steel Community. West Germany would remain stable and under control through favorable economic relationships while its resources and industrial potential would be freely available for the recovery of its partners.

With Eastern Europe under Soviet domination and Western Europe moving into the common market created by the EEC, the status of one crucial component of European politics and history remained unclear. While some of the economically marginal areas of the continent (Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula, Greece) remained outside the integration process, Great Britain's absence was very noticeable.

Great Britain Opts Out

Before World War II, Britain had a somewhat idealized self-image. The popular British view of the "sceptered isle" claimed that the country had developed the ideal system of government, one based on precedent and tradition, without suffering the periodic outbreaks of political violence that had plagued almost all of its continental neighbors at one time or another. Until relatively recently, academic geopolitics maintained that the United Kingdom was in fact as distinct from continental Europe as it was from any other geographic area of the world. Britain's emergence as the world's leading industrial power in the early nineteenth century and its amalgamation of colonial possessions (Queen Victoria ruled over twenty-five percent of the world's surface when she died in 1901) reinforced the view that Britain and its people were not merely distinct, but superior.

The devastation of two world wars, the resulting financial constraints placed on the British Empire, and the rise of challengers to Britain's global rule had still not disabused many British leaders of that notion in the years after 1945. Although there was some initial enthusiasm for European unity, exemplified by Winston Churchill's 1940 call for Britain and France to join in a political union to fight Hitler's Germany and in his 1946 call for a "United States of Europe," the leadership of the country remained by and large aloof from the idea of integration. Britain took no part in the ECSC, EDC, EEC, or any of the other early experiments in creating trans-European institutions. To do so would have been public recognition that Britain could not prosper in the post-war world without surrendering its protected markets and elements of its political sovereignty. In other words, participation in the Common Market (another name for the EEC) and even in less ambitious European organizations would have ended Britain's traditional and jealously guarded political and diplomatic independence from any continental neighbor or combination of continental neighbors. Britain's emphasis on promoting trade with its remaining colonial empire and former colonies, which had become independent members of the post-colonial Commonwealth of Nations, continued to direct the attention of its leaders away from Europe.

Britain's relationship with the United States was another source of concern. Although there had been underlying currents and occasional flare-ups of tension in Anglo-American relations since the British North American colonies won independence, relations between the two nations had been remarkably close during most of the nineteenth and throughout the twentieth centuries. After World War II, many British leaders were eager to have this "special relationship" continue. By the mid-1950s the same Winston Churchill who had called for a "United States of Europe" in 1946 authored his four-volume, Nobel prize-winning History of the English Speaking Peoples, which charted the common history of Britain and the United States and strongly suggested that the two had a common future. George Orwell's 1948 fictional novel 1984 foresaw a future in which the United States and the British Empire were amalgamated in a single political entity. While it was apparent that the United States had become and would remain the senior partner in the relationship, many British leaders argued that a junior role in an alliance with the United States was preferable to Britain's submersion into a supranational entity that would limit its independence.

Facts of international politics spoiled that vision, however. One of the most important problems between the British and American governments during the war and in the years that followed was U.S. insistence, on ideological and commercial grounds, that Britain divest itself of its colonial possessions. Prime Minister Winston Churchill not only demurred but also actually asked the United States for help in restoring British control of colonies occupied by Japan during the war. While Attlee's financially strapped postwar government had willingly let go of India and of Britain's strategically significant mandate in Palestine, his successors were increasingly reluctant to surrender other British interests around the world. This policy caused a serious problem in 1956 when Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egyptian nationalist government nationalized the British and French shares of the Suez Canal Company. (When a government nationalizes private property it takes over control and ownership on behalf of the state.) Although President Dwight Eisenhower lent his tacit support to the recovery of the canal through military means, at the crucial moment American support faded. In the United Nations General Assembly, the United States actually voted with the Soviet Union and against its two NATO allies in support of a cease-fire that called for the withdrawal of the invading troops.

Reluctantly, the British leaders who had opposed greater involvement with European integration began to accept that the United States would not automatically support British interests. The Suez Crisis of 1956 was especially instructive, since it proved that the United States was more interested in pursuing its Cold War competition with the Soviet Union for influence in the Third World than alienating developing nations from the United States and American interests by supporting imperialism. Although the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom was by no means broken off, American attitudes during the Suez Crisis were instrumental in hastening France's decision to work for the treaties that created Euratom and the EEC.

The United Kingdom and the EEC

Although Britain stayed away from the Rome Treaties of 1957 and the Common Market that they created, it became increasingly apparent that the liabilities of its partnership with the United States far outweighed whatever economic benefits it might have. Indeed, even as Prime Minister Harold Macmillan campaigned for the 1959 general election by telling his people, "You've never had it so good!," the fact of Britain's decline in relation to other countries was unavoidable. Progressively, continental European nations that had suffered much more in the war than Britain were reaching and even exceeding Britain in industrial output, per capita income, and standard of living. Even the big losers of World War II—West Germany and Japan—overtook Britain's economy in size in the 1960s. Between 1958 and 1962, moreover, most of Britain's remaining colonial possessions achieved independence and, together with the colonies that had done so previously, their roles as British trading partners declined considerably. As domestic economic problems hindered British growth and trade with the prosperous continental economies increased, Britain began to see European integration as the best available option for a prosperous future. Accordingly, Macmillan's government made a formal application for EEC membership in 1961.

Just as its EEC membership had been controversial at home, so was it controversial throughout the rest of the continent. French opposition to British entry into the Common Market was especially strong. Benefiting from France's leading position among the six member states of the EEC, French president Charles de Gaulle was reluctant to endorse any change that would detract from his country's preeminence. The inclusion of Britain's roughly equal-sized population and economy into the free-trade bloc was perhaps the biggest possible threat he could face. Britain's continuing relationship with the United States also made British EEC membership appear to be a subtle way for the Americans to enhance their European role and limit independent European action, something which the integrationist European politicians had feared all along. Whatever circumstantial evidence of this had existed before was substantiated in December 1962, when Macmillan agreed to the full subordination of his country's armed forces and nuclear arsenal to American leadership in NATO. Only a few weeks later, in January 1963, de Gaulle rejected Britain's membership in the EEC and quite explicitly identified the prospect of "American domination" as a leading factor in his decision. De Gaulle rejected a second British attempt to gain EEC membership in 1967 for the same reason.

After domestic problems forced de Gaulle's resignation in April 1969, his successors were much more reconciled to the idea of British EEC membership. By 1971 French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing agreed in principle to allow Britain to hold a referendum on the subject. Although the issue remained somewhat divisive in Britain, a majority of the voting population approved EEC membership the following year, and Britain, together with Ireland and Denmark, formally entered the European Common Market on January 1, 1973.

British Tensions with the EEC

If the tortured process of Britain's entry into Europe created tense relations between the United Kingdom and its new partners, Britain's arrival to the EEC brought with it a number of fresh problems. Contrary to many hopes and expectations, Britain's entry into the Common Market did not generate new economic prosperity. As British trade with the continent increased, British industry lost ground to more competitive products from the continental European economies. Rising trade deficits with continental nations led to inflation, and this was worsened by the rising price of oil after the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973. Under the Labour Party governments of Harold Wilson (1974-76; Wilson had also been prime minister in 1964-70) and James Callaghan (1976-79), Britain suffered so seriously from what other EEC leaders called the "English disease" that serious civil unrest set in. Under Callaghan, the British government actually came close to declaring bankruptcy and was saved only by loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Rather than experiencing an economic boom, Britain's financial situation in the 1970s more closely resembled that of a Third World country.

European integration became an even more contentious problem for Britain at this time. Although not all of its economic problems were related to EEC membership, the effect of free trade with the continental members was noticeable. The intrusion of European financial obligations into British economic life was also a serious issue. Even as its economy worsened and came to rely on the international financial community for support, Britain's mandatory contribution to the treasury of the EEC increased from 60 million pounds in 1973 to nearly a billion pounds in 1979. Agriculture became a central issue in these developments, especially since the EEC spent (and its successor, the European Union, spends) a significant percentage of its annual budget, ranging from twenty-five percent to sixty percent, on agricultural subsidies for its member states under the rubric of its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). As the quality of their own lives worsened, British taxpayers were required each year to pay more to support less efficiently run agricultural enterprises in France and other countries where farming lobbies had extracted numerous domestic concessions to support inefficient (yet cheaper and/or traditional) agricultural practices.

After Callaghan's government collapsed in a no-confidence vote in 1979, Margaret Thatcher's conservative government wasted little time in confronting this issue. In less-than-diplomatic language, Thatcher essentially accused Britain's European partners of having misappropriated British funds and quite simply, but no more diplomatically, demanded her money back. Thatcher's abrasive approach to negotiations with the EEC intensified as time went on. At one point, the French EEC president Jacques Delors cited one of Thatcher's diatribes as grounds for Britain's expulsion from the EEC.

As Thatcher wrangled with the leaders of other EEC members to reduce British contributions, she took a much less integrationist stance with regard to Britain's international position. The election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency of the United States in 1980 brought into office a man who shared many of Thatcher's political and philosophical principles more than any other world leader. The two quickly developed a close personal and political relationship centered on confrontational opposition to the Soviet Union in the Cold War. This policy was an important European issue because the rest of the EEC had adopted official policies of rapprochement—the establishment of cordial relations—with Moscow. As early as 1966, de Gaulle had called for "detente, entente, and cooperation" with the USSR to enhance France's role as a world power. Beginning in 1969, his West German associates had developed a new strategy of Ostpolitik, or "Eastern Policy," designed to create lucrative trade relationships with Eastern Europe and the USSR and to ameliorate problems associated with the division of Germany. At a time when European integration pointed toward its emergence in an independent middle position in the Cold War, Thatcher closely cooperated with the Reagan administration's vehemently anti-Soviet policies. The renewal of the special relationship as the dominant feature in British foreign relations was further enhanced in 1982 when, with Reagan's full support and assistance, Thatcher successfully defeated Argentina's attempt to seize the disputed Falkland Islands, a British possession off the South American coast. Even as the Cold War appeared to be coming to an end, Thatcher thought largely in terms of British strategic interests and even initially opposed the reunification of Germany in 1989-90 because she feared the reemergence of German rule on the continent.

Domestically, Thatcher used her strengthened position after the Falkland Islands War to consolidate her combative approach to European integration. Prominent supporters of integration within her own Conservative Party, such as foreign secretaries Lord Carrington and Francis Pym, lost their frontbench ministerial positions and were replaced by right-wing supporters of Thatcher. Thatcher's economic and social policies did more to distinguish Britain from the other EEC nations than to harmonize the United Kingdom with them. Over the course of the 1980s, Thatcher steadily reduced the role of government in the economy, curtailed the power of activist organized labor, reduced taxes, and resisted social permissiveness in what was in many ways the opposite of the trend occurring on the continent.

The European Union

Although Thatcher's increasingly acerbic opposition to European integration and her political failures on other questions (notably the controversial poll tax, a local government tax reform passed in 1988) precipitated her resignation in 1990, the new decade was marked by continuing trends of contention in British-E.U. relations. Thatcher's successor as prime minister, John Major, relied on the "euroskeptic" wing of the Conservative Party for support but found that it was increasingly necessary to appease those who favored continued integration as well. Despite continuing controversy over Britain's financial contributions to the EEC, Major was willing to overcome serious opposition within his party in order to seek British ratification of the Maastricht Treaty (1992), which transformed the EEC into the more closely associated European Union. Although the British people approved the treaty in a referendum in August 1993, the victory was only possible because Major had been able to negotiate clauses that allowed Britain to opt out of the prospective European Monetary Union (EMU).

Britain's reluctance to engage in further unification created further problems. Major's government was partially responsible for the early failures to establish a common European currency and reacted strongly to the idea by withdrawing the British pound from the E.U.'s exchange rate mechanism (ERM). Major, like Thatcher before him, also strongly urged the further expansion of E.U. membership not because he believed in European federalism, but because he quite shrewdly saw that as more and more nations joined, it would become increasingly difficult for his country's continental antagonists to build any definitive consensus on the future of the European Union. Diffusing the European Union would serve British interests by slowing down further economic and political integration. Accordingly, Britain favored the E.U. candidacies of Spain, Portugal, and Greece for entry in 1986 and those of Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Norway for entry in 1995 (though Norway voted not to join). Under Major, Britain also advocated the quick accession of former communist nations in Eastern Europe and other peripheral European states, including Turkey and Cyprus.

Another problem in the 1990s was that the enhanced powers granted to the European Commission under the Maastricht Treaty made many Britons feel that important domestic issues in their country would now be decided by self-interested and unaccountable foreign bureaucrats who sat in the commission's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. These suspicions were exacerbated by the fact that the un-elected European Commissioners, who are in effect the European Union's cabinet ministers, were and remain in no real way responsible to the European Parliament, the elected body of representatives of the European Union's people, which sits in Strasbourg, France. In Britain as well as in other countries, this "democratic deficit" has created the impression that authority in the European Union is increasingly exercised in an undemocratic fashion. A spate of financial scandals reaching to the highest levels of the European Commission and the E.U. bureaucracy, including one that forced the resignation of the entire commission in March 1999, did little to improve the image of a prospective European super-state.

An additional recent concern in Britain has been that closer involvement in European supranationalism would erode Britain's cultural distinctiveness and its unique national customs and institutions. The decision of Tony Blair's Labour government to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into British law led to widespread speculation that the process would both concede more national sovereignty to un-elected foreigners and infringe upon national traditions. When Parliament approved the bill adopting the Convention in 1999, critics expected that the British criminal justice system would face humiliating changes dictated by European judges, and it was freely admitted that adherence to the Convention would force the abolition of capital punishment by bureaucratic mandate rather than democratic parliamentary vote. In the first months after the adoption of the convention, in fact, orders of the European Court forced certain procedural changes in British courtrooms and compelled the British government to allow open homosexuals to serve in the armed forces. The British press also speculated that the future of the country's Honours System, the uniquely British institution through which the monarch grants awards and aristocratic titles to distinguished subjects, might disappear because the process is not governed by the free and open competition mandated by the convention. One of the most dramatic protests against the Blair government's bill to remove hereditary peers (members of the upper house of Parliament who inherit their right to sit and vote) from the House of Lords in November 1999 argued that the measure was part of an E.U. attempt "drafted in Brussels" to harmonize the functioning of its member states' national legislatures.

Recent History and the Future

The British beef issue in many ways amalgamated one of the critical points of contention in the history of the European Union. After more than two decades of feeling burdened by their contributions toward the support of inefficient continental farmers, British farmers were told that their own produce, even after it no longer posed a health risk, was unacceptable for sale in certain continental countries. In addition to the direct cash subsidies they had provided, in other words, British farmers were required to suffer financially in what many saw as a trumped-up attempt to block their competition from domestic markets in other countries. That the relevant decisions on the question were made by a body which they neither elected nor which was accountable to them aggravated long-standing issues of national sovereignty and power relationships that had always characterized British-E.U. relations.

Britain's future role within the European Union remains uncertain. Although relatively few advocate the country's full withdrawal, substantial majorities of the population at large and of business leaders oppose Britain's accession to the common currency. In terms of national identity, public opinion polls have shown that Britons are less willing to identify themselves as "Europeans" than any other E.U. nationality. The relatively poor performance of the euro, the common European currency, since its introduction in January 1999, has done little to change these views. A growing industrial lobby even advocates British accession to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which created a free-trade zone in the Western Hemisphere in 1993. Proponents of further integration in the government and major political parties are finding it increasingly difficult to support steps in that direction without equivocation. Even Blair, the generally pro-Europe Labour prime minister since 1997, has no firm position on the common currency issue and has suggested Britain's withdrawal from the CAP. Although the war over British beef has ended, the issues that it symbolized remain at the core of the contentious politics of the European Union.


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Pauldu Quenoy


1951 France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg establish the European Coal and Steel Community, the first major European trade organization.

1957 The trade agreement is expanded to provide for a free-trade zone for all commodities.

1956 The United States supports Egypt in a British/Egyptian conflict over the Suez Canal, undermining British confidence in a joint U.K./U.S. future.

1958 The European Economic Community (the Common Market) is created.

1961 Britain applies for EEC membership.

1963 French president Charles de Gaulle rejects the British application.

1967 De Gaulle rejects the second British application for EEC membership.

1969 De Gaulle dies.

1971 French president d'Estaing approves membership in the EEC for the United Kingdom.

1973 Britain enters the Common Market.

1992 The Maastricht Treaty establishs an even closer alliance within the European Union.

1996 Scientists discover a link between Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) and a similar, but rare, human disease, Cruetzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome. The European Commission and the European Parliament ban the sale of British beef.

1999 Despite scientific assurances that British beef is safe, France continues to refuse to import British beef. The British government threatens to sue France in European Court to ensure the access to France's market guaranteed by the Common Market.

Jose Bove

1953- Jose Bove is a sheep farmer and leader of the French "Peasant Confederation." In the business world, he is considered an important influence on the European economy: French leaders have consulted with him on agricultural issues such as genetically altered food. Many Europeans and North Americans considered him a hero.

Bove was born in Bordeaux, France, in 1953, but spent his childhood in Berkeley, California. After he returned to France, he immersed himself in activism, traveling to Tahiti to protest French nuclear tests and joining French farmers to protest the extension of a military base. He founded his political organization, the Confederation Paysanne in 1987.

In 1999 Bove and other activists were arrested for vandalizing a McDonald's restaurant in Millau, France. Bove drove a tractor and wagon through the not-yet-opened restaurant to protest the globalization of world economy, and its consequences on local farmers, diet, and traditional agriculture. Later that summer, he joined the protests that interrupted the World Trade Organization (WTO) conference in Seattle, Washington. Bove's core support group is comprised of other French farmers, who like Bove, have suffered from the affect of global economy since the United States, with the approval of the WTO, imposed one hundred percent tariffs on many French agricultural products following the European ban on hormone-treated beef.

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European Union Conflict: The British Beef Controversy

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