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Friday, 6 June 2014

Carving up the camembert - redrawing the French map

After much reported and totally uncharacteristic to-ing and fro-ing, the French president, François Hollande, finally made up his mind and released earlier this week his "vision" of a how new administratively slim-lined France could look.

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Hollande wants to reduce the number of regions from the current 22 to just 14, in an effort to "reduce regional bureaucracies and cut back on spending".

It's a move which, if approved by parliament, the government reckons could save around  €25 billiion annually.

And, at a time when France is looking to cut back on public spending, that can't be a bad thing.

No sooner had the plan been announced, than Hollande's supposed latest sidekick (although you have to wonder who is actually in charge), the prime minister, Manuel Valls, promptly popped up on TV (yet again) to explain the mechanics of passing the proposals through parliament and how, if they were approved, the process of transition would take place.

Most telling perhaps was his admission right from the start, that there could well be some room for manœuvre, implying perhaps that the 14 regions currently outlined might not be the final figure and conceding that the debate had just begun and it would be complicated.

"There will be debates in the Senate first and then in the National Assembly and there may be changes," he told Jean-Jacques Bourdin on BFM TV.

The key is to reduce the number of regions to make them stronger and more competitive. There needs to be change and it has to be done."

Ah, does it sound as though Hollande and Valls are already preparing themselves for a famous French fudge even before the debate has started.

The whole idea, of course, is not a new one. Over the decades, successive governments have toyed with the idea of redrawing the regional map of France.

And ever since Hollande came to power, rumours that he envisaged some sort of "carving up of the camembert" have been...well, if not rampant in terms of news coverage at least bubbling gently under the surface.

Some of the apparent choices seem bewildering - even to those who know about these sorts of things.

That ruddy great Poitou-Charentes, Centre and Limousin proposal for example. Or the fact that the département of Loire-Atlantique  and its capital Nantes and the current region of Pays de la Loire will not find itself in Bretagne where it probably belongs at least historically.

But perhaps everyone should breathe a huge sigh of relief that the much touted merging of Aquitaine and Limousin  (right up until the day before the announcement, as the map below from the Journal du dimanche shows) looks as though it won't happen.

What the JDD predicted François Hollande had in mind (screenshot JDD)

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