Compared to Ireland, France is much more decentralized in its governance, but that isn’t stopping them embarking on further decentralization over the coming year.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault recently signed the Pacte d’Avenir pour la Bretagne (Future Pact for Brittany) in Rennes. After several weeks of agitation that often turned violent, this is more than just a peace offering to quell the unrest of many Bretons experiencing more than their fair share of job losses in the agricultural and fish-farming sectors.
It represents a step towards decentralization that will give more autonomy to the regions and departments of France. On the menu in this case, is €2 billion aid package for Brittany and our Celtic cousins will be looking forward to a formalisation of a new decentralization policy act that is due to come before the National Assembly next April.
The Association of the Regions of France (l’Association des Régions de France) – a lobby group pushing for devolution in the republic – has also welcomed the news. Even though France’s cities and regions enjoy a high level of autonomy by Irish standards, it is very centralized when compared with other nations; in particular, Germany, where each Land enjoys its own constitution and parliament, as well as numerous autonomous functions regarding areas such as police or education.
France is divided into 22 regions, which are subdivided down into 96 departments (not counting the overseas territories). The new law due to come into force at some point after April of the coming year will impact on the functioning of both departments and regions. Mr Ayrault confirmed that “new functions will be transferred to the regions” in order to give them a more autonomous role “in running and developing the territory.” He also said that this would be made possible by laws that “give an increased amount of local ruling power that will allow for adapting regulations to the specific needs of the regions.”
The Ayrault government has already put before parliament Act 1 of the decentralization programme which affects the creation of further devolution in a dozen cities in France and which is about to become adopted into law.