After Catalonia, the Basque Country, Sardinia and South Tyrol, it is time for Brittany. Pro-Breton reunification and autonomy Breizh=44 civil society group has announced that popular, self-organized referendums will be launched in Brittany starting from November. The votes will be organized through the Dibab-Décidez la Bretagne platform in non-binding, but politically significant referendums, in which citizens will be asked to answer these two questions: "Do you agree with the establishment of a new Brittany made up of Loire-Atlantique and the four other departments of Brittany? If yes, do you agree with the merger of the departmental councils and the Regional Council within an Assembly of Brittany?".
Breton reunification is a decades-long demand. The Breton movement wants the current region of Brittany, which is made up of four departments, to be reunited with the department of Loire-Atlantique, which currently belongs to the region of the Pays de la Loire. Thousands of people (13,000 according to the local prefecture and 35,000 according to organizers) demonstrated on Saturday in Loire-Atlantique's capital city Nantes to demand reunification. Protesters want the French Parliament government to take into account Loire-Atlantique's Breton identity and recall that a five-department Brittany would have larger economic potential, which, they say, would help employers and employees there.
44=Breizh group says the idea of organizing popular referendums has been accepted by many participants in Saturday's rally. Breton party UDB youths announced on their website they would be supporting the proposal. The first popular vote will take place on November 30th in a municipality of Loire-Atlantique. Its name will be announced by mid-October.
Dibab will be officially launched on October 25th at an event in Rennes which is set to involve plataform and parties' representatives (UDB and Europe Ecology) together with politicians and professors from several stateless nations.
Breton lawyer and longstanding rights of peoples activist Yann Choucq is also expected to take part in the event. In a Nationalia interview earlier this month, Choucq argued "the Breton people should have a say" on reunification, "for example through civic, popular referendums, as it has been done elsewhere."
The Dibab initiative draws inspiration for Catalonia's popular referendums on independence. The votes were unofficially held at the local level from 2009 to 2011. Mounting pressure partially stemming from the votes ended up in a 2012 party agreement to call an official, yet non-binding, referendum on Catalan independence, which should be held on November 9th, 2014.
An alternative path outside Parliament
44=Breizh group stated it is "very skeptical about the possibility of reunification [being achieved] in Parliament in the coming months." The group refers to the reform of France's territorial map, which is currently under discussion in the French Parliament. The most recent proposal by the French government does not forsee reunification between Brittany and the Loire-Atlantique. "Rather than claiming or interpellating, we must organize ourselves," 44=Breizh says.
The parliamentary debate on the territorial map must be retaken by the French Senate in October. Right-wing parties regained control over the chamber after yesterday's partial election.
(Image: demonstration in Nantes on Saturday / Picture by Agence Bretagne Presse.)