In these days of austerity, politicians of all hues seem to be lurching to the right. As if to prove a point, France’s socialist president François Hollande has borrowed from his conservative predecessor and revived the debate on reducing the number of the country’s regions.
Instead of the current 26, plans are afoot to trim them to just 15. This would, for example, see Upper and Lower Normandy merge. Similarly, Alsace and Lorraine would unite, while Picardy would disappear altogether.
The future of other regions looks less clear – but no less contentious.
One of the proposals is to strip Pays de la Loire of the Loire-Atlantique departement and return it to Brittany. The area was considered part of Brittany until the creation of the current set of regions in the early 1980s – and the move could prove a vote winner with Bretons.
The plans were originally drawn up in 2009 by former prime minister Édouard Balladur at the request of the then president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Now, Hollande says he hopes the move will also clarify responsibilities at the local and regional level and eliminate duplication of work.
Perhaps surprisingly, however, the plans don’t come with a sweetener that offers the regions greater powers. Which may make gaining support particularly arduous.