Sunday, 27 September 2015

Merge and Divide

France lacks of peripheral nationalisms, except for Brittany and Corsica, and anyway it's minimum when compared to Basque or even Galician nationalism. Not event regional feelings are any strong. Based on wikipedia Midi-Pyrénées has one of the strongest regional feelings, probably it's true, you will see the Languedoc/Occitanie cross here and there, and of course Toulousains are very proud (and with good reason) of our city. Indeed, I would say that when compared to Spain, French nationalism is pretty soft (yes, forget about the huge support for the FN, I've said it in some other posts, it's quite a mystery that does not fit at all with what I perceive in my daily life in France, but at the same time I more or less begin to understand what prompts that vote, and for sure in most cases is not a particularly strong national feeling what is behind it).

With this in mind, it's not strange that the decision taken by the government some months ago to merge several regions (effective next January) did not stir strong passions or painful debates among the population (wow, imagine how different it would be in Spain...) On the other side, some local politicians were quite belligerent. The main problem with these merges is that you have to reduce duplicated structures and you have to choose a capital, so in the case of the merge of Midy-Pyrénéés and Languedoc-Roussillon this was quite painful for the latter. The decision between Toulouse and Montpellier was pretty clear for anyone with a brain. Don't get me wrong, Montpellier is a beautiful, modern city full of history, but it can not be compared to Toulouse, neither in terms of population (Toulouse is twice the size of Montpellier, both for the cities proper and for the Metropolitan areas), economic relevance and historical role (capital of the Visigothic kingdom, Battle of Toulouse, County of Toulouse). Indeed, I guess this easy decision is what mainly led to the fusion with L-R rather than with Aquitaine,a region with which in principle there are more economical sinergies (the Aerospace valley...). But choosing a capital between Bordeaux and Toulouse would have been pretty tough and I guess nobody wanted to get caught in such a battle.

Anyway, politicians in Montpellier were ready to cry and fight, and in the end they managed a sort of split of competencies. Toulouse will be the capital, but will get 6 out of 11 regional administrations, Montpellier will get the other 5. Of course this has not been well received in Toulouse, and many (me among them) question this decision and the merge itself.

I considered this to be a problem unique to this new region, as I thought it was the only one with 2 big cities, though notice that other already existing regions like PACA or Rhone-Alpes have this same situation (Marseille-Nice, Lyon-Grenoble-Saint Etienne), but reading this week's issue of Charlie Hebdo I found out that the case of Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine is even worst, they are joining 3 regions and you have to split competencies to keep everyone sort of happy between Strasbourg, Reims and Metz/Nancy (as Lorraine already had 2 big cities...) Obviously this will be really convenient for citizens... and is an excellent way to spend the brutal (yes, you can only qualify them as that, brutal) taxes paid by French workers. As Charlie notes, it follows the tradition of competence and money saving established by the European Union and its split of administrations between Brussels and Strasbourg...

Regarding my new region, some people proposed an idea that would have been really costly, but in terms of history and structuring of the territory was not that bad, to move the capital to Carcasonne, that though located in L-R is much more related to Toulouse (30 minutes far by train) than to Montpellier. The next point is deciding on a name, as the M-P-L-R thing is just something provisional. There is one poll in La Depeche about it. I voted for Pyrénées-Languedoc (Toulouse was the capital of the historical Languedoc), but Occitanie seems to be the one favoured by most people. My problem with naming it Occitanie is that the historical Occitanie comprised a much bigger territory.

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