France names capital cities for new regions

French officials have revealed their suggestions for the capital cities of the country's newest regions. But not everyone is happy about the choices.

France names capital cities for new regions
Here is the full list of the new proposed capitals. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

After decades of wrangling, French lawmakers finally voted just before Christmas to slash the number of regions in metropolitan France from 22 to 13. 

The map below shows where two, or sometimes three regions will be combined into one when the plan takes effect next year. 

And these new regions, which have been created with the aim of curbing bureaucracy, can boast capital cities as of Friday afternoon.

Well, provisional ones at least. Newly named capitals include: Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Dijon, Lille, Lyon, Rouen, and Toulouse.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls took to the steps of the National Assembly to stress that these were nothing but suggestions, and that “it is up to the regions to make their own choices”.

Here is the full list of the proposed capitals, followed by a map showing the proposed capitals in red, and the nine that were overlooked in pink.

Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes: Bordeaux
Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne, Lorraine: Strasbourg
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes: Lyon 
Bourgogne, Franche-Comté: Dijon 
Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées: Toulouse 
Normandie: Rouen 
Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardie: Lille 
Bretagne: Rennes 
Provence-Alpes, Côte-d'Azur: Marseille
Pays de la Loire: Nantes 
Centre, Val de Loire: Orléans 
Île-de-France: Paris
Corse: Ajaccio 
The announcement was not taken well by the mayor of Amiens, Brigitte Fouré. She told the Le Parisien newspaper that the choice was “a mistake”,
Amiens is the current capital of Picardie in the north, but if the government's plan goes ahead, it will lose its status to Lille in bordering Nord-Pas-de-Calais. 
Fouré argued that similarly to other countries in the world, France should consider having a financial and political capital.
“I can only hope that common sense will prevail,” she said.

Regional councils will have to approve the choices by October 1st next year.

While France has had the same municipal map since the 18th century, statistics agency Insee revealed in April this year that the regional mergers will do wonders to improve regional equality in terms of population numbers.

“None of the mainland regions will consist of fewer than two million inhabitants,” the agency said at the time.

Regional mergers will also bring different parts of France closer to parity in age distribution, said Insee, taking the fusion of Auvergne with Rhône-Alpes as an example of an ageing population joining forces with a younger cohort.

The graph below shows the population distribution of the new regions.

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French town of Nantes votes for referendum on exiting Pays-de-la-Loire region

The French city of Nantes is to hold a referendum on exiting the Pays-de-la-Loire region and becoming part of Brittany instead.

French town of Nantes votes for referendum on exiting Pays-de-la-Loire region
Photo: AFP

On Friday the town council of Nantes voted in favour of requesting the French government organise a referendum so local people can have their say about whether they wish to remain in the Pays-de-la-Loire region or become part of Brittany – a region that many say the town has more historic and cultural connections to.

The vote on Friday was carried by 56 votes and concerns whether the département of Loire-Atlantique – which contains Nantes – should move regions.

READ ALSO The 20 essential maps you need to understand Brittany


The vote follows a petition in 2018 which gathered 105,000 signatures.

Nantes mayor Johanna Rolland said: “This strong citizen mobilisation cannot be ignored. It reflects the aspiration of our fellow citizens to be consulted to a greater extent, in a context of essential revitalisation of our democracy.”

The desire of people in the Loire-Atlantique to become Breton isn't new.
The départment was part of Brittany until World War II, when it was separated and made part of the neighbouring region by the Vichy government. That region eventually became the Pays-de-la-Loire in 1955.
The issue has been simmering since then and pro-Breton voices have become louder in recent years as they hope to take advantage of a law that allows départments to chose which region they belong to via a referendum.
The town, which is the historic seat of the Dukes of Brittany, also declared its intention to  “set up a permanent pluralist body to engage in a genuine consultation with the State on the organisation of this referendum, organise an in-depth debate on the issues and consequences of a redistribution in order to feed the citizen debate, and formulate proposals to strengthen cooperation between Nantes and the other Breton territories”. 
However the referendum will have to be approved by both the national government and the regional authorities.

France's regions were reorganised in 2016 and several were merged to create the current 13 regions of mainland France.

Brittany currently covers four départements – Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d'Armor, Finistère and Morbihan – while Pays-de-la-Loire covers Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe and Vendée. Nantes is currently the largest town in the region.