In brief

Alsace clears first step towards recovering a governing authority of its own

Both departmental councils vote for establishment of European Collectivity in 2021 with enlarged powers

Haut-Rhin council president Brigitte Klinkert during the vote.
Haut-Rhin council president Brigitte Klinkert during the vote. Author: Conseil départemental du Haut-Rhin
The departmental councils of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin voted 4 February in favour of their merger into a new European Collectivity of Alsace starting in 2021. The collectivity —a type of governing authority in France— will be granted the current powers of both departments, and will also receive additional powers in the fields of cross-border cooperation, bilingualism, economic development, tourism, transport, and culture.

Alsace will thus regain a governing authority of its own, after the old Alsace region disappeared in 2016, when it was absorbed by the new macro-region of Grand-Est.

Regaining an Alsatian public body had become the main demand of the Alsatian movement. The proposed model can be understood as an intermediate solution. Pro-autonomy Unser Land party believes that the European Collectivity of Alsace is an insufficient achievement because it will keep Alsace within the Grand-Est region, as the establishment of the new authority does not mean that Alsace becomes a region of its own. But meanwhile, the Socialists of the Bas-Rhin argue that this is only the first step towards a subsequent self-governing authority that will largely act without the constraints of Grand-Est.

This week’s vote marks the beginning of a legislative process to create the new Alsatian collectivity, and relates to an agreement reached in October 2018 by the French government and Alsatian political representatives.