The map approved by lawmakers early Friday in France’s National Assembly would cut its number of regions from 22 to 13, but the reform still has several hurdles to clear before it changes the bureaucratic map of the country.
The key difference to this map is that it includes 13 regions and not 14 as called for by President François Hollande in the draft he released in June. However the reduced number of regions hasn’t yet sparked any major controversy and in fact was proposed by lawmakers from his Socialist party.
This draft of the map also reflects a reshuffling of how the existing regions would be grouped together. For example the Poitu-Charente, Limousin and Aquitaine regions in south western France are now set to be merged together, where the previous Hollande's draft had Aquitaine staying on its own.
It’s likely this map will be the subject of further tinkering as it heads through the process and as lawmakers hammer out the legislation which would bring the reforms into force.
“There’s no perfect map,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after the vote that came after an all night session, according to AFP. “We had the audacity to draft this map all the while staying open to the possibility it will be changed.”
French leaders see the trimming of the number of regions as key to streamlining France’s costly and dense — referred to as the ‘millefeuille’ or thousand layers — bureaucracy. The idea is to avoid duplication of efforts on matters like transportation, education and professional training, as well as concentrate responsibilities into fewer hands.
In addition to red tape being a hassle for residents, who are used to filling out reams of forms for school registration, healthcare and retirement matters, it’s also believed to be a brake on business development.
For a France dealing with record unemployment and a stagnant economy, the idea of making it easier for businesses to operate and expand is an attractive one.
Critics, however, have argued cutting the regions really avoids the principal problem in France.
“The real issue is local governments. We have had the same municipal map since the 18th century,” Sorbonne Professor and public administration expert Gerard Marcou told The Local previously. “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.”