A group of Alsatian AMs yesterday showed in the French National Assembly a banner that read: "Do not kill Alsace." No avail: the Socialist majority in the lower house of the French Parliament yesterday approved at second reading a new territorial map for metropolitan France, which will reduce the number of official regions from current 22 to 13. Alsace will not be one of them.
Indeed, after many debates and street protests against the merger, Alsace has finally been included into a new eastern macro-region, along with Champagne-Ardennes and Lorraine. Alsatian AMs, parties and civil society groups believe this will dilute Alsace's identity and will go against its geographical, economic, historical and cultural orientation, which looks towards Germany more than towards the west.
The decision by the National Assembly will also ruin plans to have Alsace granted more autonomy by turning it in a single collectivity, similar to the system that prevails in Corsica.
Support by the French Senate has also proved useless for those in favor of keeping Alsace's independence. Last month, the Senate passed a proposal to have the number of new official regions lifted from 13 to 15. This included keeping Alsace unchanged and not merging Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillon regions. But the National Assembly yesterday accepted none of these proposals.
Little hope for Brittany reunification
Another hotspot of yesterday's vote was the issue of Brittany reunification. Breton AMs and senators asked the return of the department of Loire-Atlantique -which is currently part of the region of Pays de la Loire- to Brittany. Loire-Atlantique -which the historic capital of Brittany Nantes belongs to- had been part of Brittany until it was separated by the Vichy French government in 1941. An amendment which called for reunification was yesterday rejected by the National Assembly.
An door still remains open for Breton reunification. The territorial reform provides that any given department can change region starting from 2016, the so-called "right of option." Conditions under which this can be done are being discussed today in the National Assembly. The Senate last month proposed a more or less soft set of conditions. But the National Assembly has been so far in favor of imposing tougher conditions. Essentially, French AMs want the exit region to have the right to block any change: departaments can only secede from any given region if the Regional Council approves the move by a three-fifths vote. This would make the departure of Loire-Atlantique from the Pays de la Loire very difficult.