On Tuesday, the French government released its plan for a new map that would significantly alter France's internal borders, slimming it down from 22 administrative regions to 14 "super-regions."
French President François Hollande hopes that the new, slimmed-down map might help the country ease some of its bureaucratic burden: Prime Minister Manuel Valls even claims that it could save France about €25 billion ($34 billion). It would also create regions of a size comparable to other European nations.
But the redrawn map is drawing some ire, especially from regions that will be merged. According to Connexion France, these include Basse and Haute Normandie; Auvergne and Rhone-Alpes; Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillon; Poitou-Charentes, Centre and Limousin; Picardie and Champagne-Ardennes; Bourgogne and Franche-Comte, and Alsace and Lorraine.
Of course, many of these regions have strong regional identities (not to mention their foods: Bourgogne is famous for its wine, Normandy for its cheese, etc.), and many French citizens have mixed feelings about merging with their neighbors. According to a poll conducted last month, 68 percent felt the reforms were necessary, but 77 percent didn't want their region to disappear. Alsace, for example, is a relatively wealthy region on the border with Germany, and the poll showed that 61 percent of respondents didn't want to join with their poorer neighbor Lorraine. Under this plan, they would.
Another recent, less scientific poll, conducted on Le Figaro's Web site, found that 72 percent of respondents were unsatisfied with the new regions announced Tuesday, with the newspaper pointing out that disputes from "local barons" over the redrawing of the map were politically motivated. Le Monde has pointed out that the new map still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and experts say that even this radical map doesn't address France's real bureaucratic problems.
“The real issue is local governments. We have had the same municipal map since the 18th century,” Gerard Marcou, a Sorbonne professor and public administration expert, told the Local. “Napoleon managed to eliminate the villages with fewer than 300 inhabitants, we went from 44,000 to 38,000. He’s the only one who has managed to get rid of small towns. The place where we could really save some money is by concentrating these small towns.”
The new map still has a long way to go: Hollande's Council of Ministers will examine the plan later this month, and it will still need to make it past the French legislature before becoming law (Hollande hopes it may be enacted in 2015). In a statement, the French president explained: “We must move quickly, because we cannot afford to procrastinate on such an important issue for the future of the country."
Here's a closer view of the map (the colors show which regions would be merging):