France 2005: the quest for greatness?

It has now been a year and a half since I moved to France. I am not going to bore you with all the domestic challenges the move caused me, do not worry, but I need to mention this since I have only just begun to explore life in France. This post about France will therefore be rather impressionistic. Yet I am sure our esteemed guest poster Emmanuel, and hopefully our French readers, will chime in with corrections, elaborations and the like. I also need to mention that I live in the countryside of Brittany, which means there is some distance between me and whatever happens in Paris and the rest of France.

The first thing I noticed about France is that my day-to-day life has not changed much compared to my extended stay in Belgium. People basically talk about the same things: life is expensive, the weather is relatively mild for the time of the year, the bathroom needs painting, sports, etc. And naturally there has been some cultural talk, since I am a new kid on the block with a heavy foreign accent, mostly about culinary and linguistic differences. Every now and then the conversation turns to politics and society. Rarely so, but still.
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Europe hors l’Europe

Since I’m on the subject of things extra-European today, I note that Le Monde is reporting that there will be a referendum in Guadéloupe and Martinique in December over changing the status and government structure of France’s Caribbean colonies. France has a tradition of being a very centralised state, but the last 20 years or so have seen the end of the old regime. Powers are now devolved to regional governments, and the DOM-TOM’s are increasingly autonomous. Corsica’s little set-back recently is, I suspect, just a speedbump in the decline of the centralised French state.

What I would like to propose is the idea that maybe there needs to be some debate on the status of Europe’s extra-European areas as whole.
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