New mobilizations in Alsace seek to prevent Eastern macro-region merger

Groups, parties demand non-binding referendum on the future of the territory · One thousand march in Strasbourg against the merger of Alsace with Lorraine and Champagne-Ardennes· Alsace is set to disappear as an official region on January 1st 2016

Several parties and organizations are seeking to collect 127,000 signatures -some 10% of potential Alsatian voters- by the end of the month in order to exert pressure on the Alsatian Regional Council to demand a non-binding referendum on Alsace's future. Proponents of the referendum, which include the Unser Land party and Les Alsatiens Reunies and the Democratic Federation of Alsace (FDA) groups, rallied yesterday in Strasbourg against the merger of Alsace with Lorraine and Champagne-Ardennes within a new Eastern macro-region to be born on January 1st 2016.

According to L'Alsace, the demonstration gathered one thousand people, including several Alsatian mayors. As the march went by, signatures demanding the non-binding referendum were collected. The signature campaign is being promoted by the FDA, and it proposes the following ballot question: "Do you wish that the Alsace Region demands the [French] State to experience a new political organization for Alsace?".

Alsatian movement groups believe that the disappearance of Alsace as an official region will threaten its identity and will hit its economic, social and cultural development. Thus, they are proposing that Alsace becomes a territorial collectivity of its own, as Corsica is. The groups argue there is no need to change the French Constitution for that solution to be implemented.

The merger of Alsace, Lorraine and Champagne-Ardennes was approved in November 2014 by the French National Assembly, despite opposition from many Alsatian MPs.

The creation of an Alsatian territorial collectivity was put to vote in April 2013. The Bas-Rhin department supported it but the Haut-Rhin voted against. Turnout was less than 40%. The Alsatian movement argues the low turnout did not help clarify Alsatians' real will, and thus the vote should be called again.