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21.2.1.  CAP marathons

    The Commission's first proposals for common market organisations in June 1960 fired the starting gun for the hard-hitting negotiations in the Council, which became known as "agricultural marathons". Each of these negotiating rounds produced a common market organisation for the various agricultural products: cereals, pigmeat and poultry meat, eggs, beef and veal and dairy products, fruit and vegetables and wine etc. Despite the difficulties encountered in satisfying all the varying interests, it was to the credit of the young Community that by the end of 1963 a common market organisation existed for almost 85% of the agricultural output of the then six Member States.

    Three years later, however, the CAP came upon its first and only serious crisis, which shook the whole European Economic Community. Indeed, the completion of the common agricultural policy required the Community to take control of the Member States' expenditure under the common market organisations. The Commission suggested in March 1965 that the common agricultural market be completed on July 1, 1968, together with the customs union for industrial products. However, the Council failed to meet its deadlines and, as a consequence, the Community lived through the most serious crisis in its history. In order to press its points of view, France under de Gaulle practised for seven months an "empty chair" policy in the Council and thus blocked any new Community initiative.

    Work on the common agricultural policy only got back on track after the Luxembourg compromise of January 28, 1966 [see section 1.5.4]. It culminated, in May 1966, in a Council agreement on Commission proposals for the financing of the agricultural policy [Regulation 130/66 last amended by Regulation 966/71]. This agreement under its belt, the Council was able to make fresh progress on the common market organisation for practically all agricultural products. Thanks to these decisions, the common agricultural market was able to be an integral part of the customs union created on July 1, 1968 [see section 5.1].

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