Alsace considers reviving single council plan so that not to merge into Eastern macro-region

Most Alsatian AMs in Paris reject three-into-one merger with Lorraine and Champagne-Ardennes · A proposal to create a single Council of Alsace out of current three existing councils was voted down in 2013 · Alsatian government supports merger with Lorraine only

The territorial map of the French Republic that was last week approved on first reading by the French National Assembly sparked discontent not only in Brittany, but in Alsace too. Under the new map, it is expected that Alsace will merge into a newly established Eastern macro-region together with Lorraine and Champagne-Ardennes. Alsatian representatives, however, reject the three-into-one merger: according to them, Alsace has few contact points with Champagne-Ardennes, and they fear that the center of gravity of the new region will move away from Alsace to a location closer to French capital Paris (see map; click on to enlarge). Given this scenario, Alsatian politicians started to consider again a proposal that would turn Alsace into a single council region with enlarged autonomy.

The idea was suggested earlier this week, in a joint statement, by most Alsatian members of the National Assembly (all of them are UMP-UDI members). The text was also signed by Alsatian President Philippe Richert and Department of Bas-Rhin President Guy-Dominique Kennel. AMs say that Alsace was willing to accept two different ways for an administrative reorganization of their territory. On the one side, they would have accepted an Alsace-Lorraine merger, without Champagne-Ardennes. On the other, they would also support merging the Regional Council of Alsace with the General Councils of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin -the two departments that make up Alsace. The project, in addition to unifying the three councils into a single one, would allow Alsace to receive more powers from Paris.

The proposal for an Alsatian single council, however, was put into vote in April 2013, and was rejected by the Haut-Rhin voters. The turnout was very low -below 40% in both departments- and this is the reason why supporters of the single council plan believe that it could now be approved in a new referendum if abstainers get convinced about its benefits.

Alsatian AMs expect the territorial map could still be modified after the summer break. The French Senate must review it and, in theory, it is still possible that the map changes again and Alsace is only merged with Lorraine.

But some Alsatian leaders do not wish to wait and see if that scenario ever becomes reality, and propose to immediately resume the path towards the creation of a single Alsatian council that would prevent Alsace from being merged into any larger region. Mulhouse Mayor Jean Rottner (UMP) is advocating this solution, and launched an initiative asking the Regional Council of Alsace and the General Councils of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin to start talks in September in order to create the single Alsatian council.

However, doubts have arisen over the General Council of Haut-Rhin's willingness to take on a project that voters in that department rejected just a year ago. General Council of Haut-Rhin President Charles Büttner failed to express support for the idea, and significantly, he did not sign the statement by Richert, Kennel and the Alsatian AMs.