DOSSIER. Reunification of historic Brittany, Breton-medium education and recognition of Brittany’s Celtic heritage are some of the main battlegrounds for political parties and civil society in Brittany today. The Bretons have made ground by exerting considerable collective pressure – the network of Breton-language, or Diwan, schools, is a good example of their achievements to date – despite the fact that they have just as little autonomy as any other region of France.
Today Brittany is split between two different administrative areas, the region of Brittany and the department of Loire-Atlantique. One of the main demands of the Breton nationalist movement is therefore the reunification of Breton territory to form a single region. There are frequent protests and demonstrations to this effect, such as the Festimanif on September 20, 2008.
Breton social movements are also actively engaged in defending Breton culture in general and the Breton language in particular. Earlier this year, Ar Redadeg, a race across the Breton-speaking zone inspired by the Correllengua in the Catalan Countries and the Korrika in the Basque Country, was held for the first time.
But the Bretons' greatest achievement in terms of cultural preservation must surely be the federation of Diwan schools, which offer immersion in the Breton language at primary level. The first Diwan school opened its doors in 1977, following in the footsteps of the Ikastolak in the Basque Country and the Gaelscoileanna in Ireland. Despite the obstacles imposed by the French state, over 3,000 pupils now attend Breton-medium schools. For further information on the Breton language, see Ouiaubreton.com.
Without effective self-government (neither of the two administrative areas has greater powers than other French regions or departments), social mobilization has played a key role in gaining recognition for Breton collective rights, but political parties have been somewhat marginalized as a result. A wide range of Breton parties and movements are represented on Agencebretagnepresse.com, a news website where Breton groups can post messages. Le Télégramme and Ouest France are another useful source of information on Brittany.
In Breton politics, the Breton Democratic Union (UDB) is the party that tends to obtain the best results out of all the pro-autonomy parties, often in coalition with other left-wing parties, particularly the Greens. The UDB currently has one regional councillor and several municipal councillors but no mayor. It campaigns for Breton reunification and greater sovereignty for Brittany.
Alongside the UDB, the Breton Party emulates nationalist movements in other European nations such as Catalonia and Scotland and operates under the slogan "an emancipated and reunited Brittany."
Other Breton parties which have a following that is worthy of note include Emgann, a socialist and pro-independence party, and the Breton branch of the Federalist Party, which wants France to become a federation.