New French regions: alleged benefits of the territorial reform

MyFrenchLife™ – – new French regions – benefits – why – criticisms

As of January 2016, France officially has new regions. For the uninitiated, the reasons and benefits of this territorial reform might seem obscure.

In my last article which you can find here, I laid out the key changes to the map. Now let’s look at some of the reasons for the reform, and its criticisms.

Expected benefits of the reform

Following the reform, the number of French regions is down from 22 to 13. Several benefits are expected from this reform:

  • It will supposedly reduce costs by limiting bureaucracy; the government hopes to save about 10 billion euros.
  • The new names of the regions will be used as a marketing tool to help promote regions to tourists and investors. Regions should, therefore, become more attractive and the reform could reinforce their competitiveness.
  • The reform aims to reduce regional disparities regarding their demographic and economic characteristics. The new regions will all have over two million inhabitants (apart from la Corse) and so their economic weight is reinforced by the reform.

Move the slider across the map to reveal the before and after.

A controversial territorial reform

Despite the alleged benefits of this territorial reform, many criticisms arose as soon as the project was presented. It is unsure that the reform will indeed create savings, since most of the fonctionnaires (civil servants) will keep their protected jobs. Former regional capitals will also want to retain a role. Other critics highlight the fact that this reform will limit the proximity of the administration.

New map, old tensions

MyFrenchLife™ – – new French regions – territorial reform – benefits – why – criticisms – region Normandie

Finally, the main point of contention remains the new map of France and its cultural significance. Some mergers make sense and will actually reinforce the image of a region. Take Normandie, which results from the merger of la Haute-Normandie and la Basse-Normandie. This new name should make promotion easier.

However, other new regions made of very different areas will have a hard time defining a common identity. For example, Picardie, which merged with Nord-Pas-de-Calais under the new name Hauts-de-France, fears being forgotten. The same goes for other big ensembles created by the reform (Grand Est, Occitanie and Nouvelle Aquitaine).

MyFrenchLife™ – – new French regions – territorial reform – benefits – why – criticisms – Catalan – Occitanie

There were a lot of controversies around drawing up the new regional lines and choosing the names of some of the redesigned regions. You can’t expect that the cultural woes will disappear once the reform takes place. We may hear some strong voices coming from certain regions; just think of the Catalans who are now part of Occitanie. A new map is not enough to redefine cultural identity.

As for me, I was born une Picarde but my former region no longer exists and the new one has not formally chosen a name for its inhabitants. That can’t be a good sign.

What do you think about the territorial reform? A step forward or a political mess? Share your voice in the comments!

Image credits:
1. ‘Aerial View of Green Land at Daytime’, veeterzy, via Unsplash
2. Before and after images, ‘Avant/Apres’, via
3. ‘La Porte d’Aval, Etretat, Normandie’, Fabio Achilli via Flickr and ‘Der Mont Saint Michel, Manche’, JakobVoss via Wikimedia
4. ‘Previous Catalan Way in Paris, on 2 September’, vx_letz via Wikimedia 

About the Contributor

Sophie Landrieux

As a French academic I've lived in the USA since 2008. This has caused me to realize how French I am & become aware of the cultural differences between France & the USA. I share my experiences here and in a book entitled “Chroniques de l’Amérique au quotidien : une Française décrypte l’American Way of Life” and on my blog.  

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One Comment

  1. Sophia Marci-Anderson Dec 14, 2016 at 2:40 AM - Reply

    Interesting! I can understand why people might be annoyed by this, particularly smaller communities with a strong cultural identity, but if it streamlines bureaucracy and makes things more efficient then I suppose it’s a good thing.

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