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France

Anger as plan to redraw French map omits 'Great Brittany'

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-06-03

Many Bretons, who dream of a reunified “Great Brittany”, are furious that a planned redrawing of France’s regional borders does not include the restoration of the Loire Atlantique department.

In 1941, the Loire Atlantique department (administrative sub-region) was separated from Brittany and attached to the neighbouring Loire region.

The decision to sever the department, approved by wartime collaborationist leader Philippe Pétain in 1941, is still seen by many as grossly unfair.

And now that a redrawing of France’s regional map is back on the table, some Bretons are rolling up their sleeves in their enthusiasm to get the territory back.

On Monday, President François Hollande outlined his plan to reduce the number of French regions to save costs and streamline regional government.

This will include merging Champagne and Ardenne, as well as Alsace and Lorraine. But Brittany and Pays de la Loire will not change their borders.

It’s a decision which suits the current president of the Pays de la Loire, Jacques Auxiette, who said keeping the current borders was “reasonable”.

‘Let’s fight’

Brittany has a strong regional identity and a number of powerful movements battling for its linguistic and territorial integrity. Mainstream politicians and social movements alike have called for the restoration of the Loire Atlantique department.

Former Socialist Prime Minister Marc Ayrault, who was also a popular mayor of Nantes, historically Brittany’s most important port, tweeted that it was “in the interest of the people” to merge the department back into Brittany.

His successor at Nantes city hall, Johanna Rolland, also took to the social networking site: “For the future of our territories and the people living in them, let’s fight for a merger of Pays de la Loire and Bretagne” she tweeted. 

Marc le Fur, a member of parliament for the opposition conservative UMP party, accused Hollande of “upholding Vichy [the wartime French state]” on his personal blog.

“He hasn’t listened to his Breton ministers, or the Breton members of parliament, or to local businesses, or to cultural leaders. He is deaf. He won’t listen to anyone.”

The organisation 44=BZH, which fights for “reunification” of Brittany, accused the government of only listening to the Loire Atlantique’s political leaders, who are desperate not to lose their jobs, while ignoring the wishes of the Breton masses.

‘Bretons are not serfs’

Using deliberate and ironic feudal language, the group said: “The local barons have had their day in the court of the Elysée [presidential] palace where they have pleaded successfully to keep their fiefdoms.

“Democracy has been put to shame. It should be up to the citizens to decide the future of their region. Bretons are not serfs. These decisions cannot be made without due consultation.”

Another group, the “Red Bonnets” protest movement which forced the government to backtrack on a planned new road tax in 2013, said the decision to ignore Brittany’s wish to restore Loire Atlantique and Nantes was “revolting”.

“Once again the future of Brittany has been decided by a bunch of technocrats in a Paris office,” wrote Christian Troadec, mayor of the Breton town of Carhaix and one of the leaders of the movement, who called for “resistance” against the plans.

“Reintegration of Loire Atlantique into Brittany must happen,” he added. “Nantes must once more become a Breton city. It must happen immediately.”

Protests calling for the return of the lost territory are expected to go ahead on Tuesday evening in the four departments that make up Brittany, as well as in Nantes.

An LH2 poll in April found that 63% of Loire Atlantique residents and 57% of people living in modern Brittany support a reunification.

Date created : 2014-06-03

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