Alsace: 83 percent of Alsatians back return of their historical region

Two years after it became part of the Grand Est, a whopping 83 percent of Alsatians -- known for being fiercely proud of their cultural identity -- want Alsace to regain its regional status, a new survey reveals.

Alsace: 83 percent of Alsatians back return of their historical region
Hundreds of people demonstrate holding Alsatian regional flags against the government regional reform. Photo: AFP
However a recent study carried out by French think tank Ifop revealed that 83 percent of Alsatians want Alsace to regain its old regional status. 
The poll which was commissioned by several cultural institutes based in the historical region surveyed 1,002 people on several questions concerning the future of the region.
And according to the survey, the results of which were unveiled on Tuesday, the Alsatians haven't quite got used to the change. 
In fact, 55 percent of them believe that it was a “bad thing” to have happened to the region on top of the 83 percent who want a return to the way things were.  
The results are almost identical to those of a poll conducted in May 2017 which showed that 84 percent of Alsatians wanted the return of their region.
In total, 82 percent of respondents also want a referendum or popular consultation on the 're-birth' of the Alsace region and one regional organisation has proposed that this could take place during the 2019 European elections. 
The overwhelming support for the referendum should perhaps come as no surprise to those who were in France to witness the regional reorganisation two years ago. 
At the time, MPs in Alsace were particularly vocal against the proposal.
“In what kind of society can you marry people against their will,” said the representative for the once-Alsatian Haut-Rhin department, Jean-Luc Reitzer.
Thousands of Alsaciens joined street protests to voice their anger over the reform, some carrying banners saying “We won't mix choucroute with quiche”, referring to the two local dishes from Alsace and Lorraine.
When the map was drafted, Strasbourg mayor Roland Ries made it clear he would not accept it if Strasbourg, the seat of the European parliament, lost its status as regional capital when merged with other regions.
In the end he got his way, much to the anger of deputies from Champagne-Ardenne.


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.

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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.