The proposed reorganization of the territorial map of the French Republic by President FranÃ§ois Hollande has raised criticism everywhere. One of the affected areas is Northern Catalonia, which, according to Hollande's plan, will be included into an Occitan macro-region centered around Toulouse. An interview to Northern Catalan party Catalan Unity (UC) President and Perpignan Deputy Mayor Brice Lafontaine:
-The proposal by president Hollande places Northern Catalonia within a new macro-region made up by the current regions of Midi-PyrÃ©nÃ©es and Languedoc-Roussillon. What does Catalan Unity think about these plans?
-For us it is very negative. For 30 years, being included in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, we have been suffering Montpellier's contempt, and it will likely be the same with Toulouse, although we have more links with Toulouse than with Montpellier. In terms of identity and economic development, [Northern Catalans] have nothing to gain from this macro-region. This is a centralization that not even the Jacobin right would have dared to implement.
-However, Perpignan Mayor Jean-Marc Pujol says the merger of Midi-PyrÃ©nÃ©es and Languedoc-Roussillon is not a bad idea.
-But the merger is not enough for him. He would like a macro-region including Barcelona, with Perpignan at its centre. In fact, it would be a European region. But that seems impossible to me, if Southern Catalonia is to become an independent country. Pujol's idea perhaps stems from a very French view, since he continues to perceive Barcelona as the capital city of a region, and not as the capital of a state. But we do a lot of work so that the difference is perceived.
-Hollande says his map is a proposal, and that it will be subject to parliamentary debate. Do you expect any plan change in French National Assembly?
-Not as we would like it to be. The French government and the French media have been doing a lot of pressure so that to convince people about the goods of macro-regions. Until two or three years ago, almost everyone was against them. But now, 55% to 60% of the French population are for. It is a rightist reform carried out by the left. The context is important: the Left which is currently in power in several regions will not oppose a reform promoted by a socialist President. Nor will the Right oppose it. Brittany's opposition to Hollande's plan is the strongest one.
-How can Northern Catalans react to this?
-Just as Southern Catalans are gaining independence through popular mobilization, Northern Catalans will only win our struggle from the people, not from deputies or senators. The only [North Catalan] representative who is against the reform is [Languedoc-Roussillon President] Christian Bourquin, and simply because he wants to keep the current region alive.
-Catalan Unity party wants a Catalan autonomous region instead.
-It is the only way that Catalan specificity is taken into account: a special statute. Like, for example, Corsica has, or Alsace-Moselle in social issues, or even the Paris region. These are possible things. The problem is that people are now convinced that France should have very large regions, both in territory and in population. We must inform people and make them see that some small European regions are working very well, even better than large regions. What is going to happen with the new macro-region? Will it adequately manage our schools? And in the end, also it will not be true that administrative staff will be cut. There will be no real change beyond the fact that local government will be even more distant from the people.
-Do you therefore have plans to start a protest or information campaign?
-We are thinking about that. We plan to launch a website explaining this, including a popular request that people can sign online. If we have enough support, perhaps we will also collect signatures on the street.
Two proposals for a new map
Catalan Unity party has produced two maps as an alternative to Hollande's plan (see them above). Both proposals involve a reduction in the number of regions. They only differ from one another in the fact that the former includes a region for the Northern Basque Country and another for Savoy, while the latter does not. Catalan Unity's proposal map would set a 15- or 17-region map. Hollande's proposal sets 14 regions. The current map includes 22 regions.