Yesterday was regional elections day in France. France has not traditionally had any strong local government structure – one of the first acts of the revolution was the abolition of the old provinces and their replacement with purely administrative “departments.” However, the last 20 years have seen radical changes in the way French government is structured and the EU in particular has been a big force in decentralising the French state. The creation of the regions in 1982 was motivated by a desire to create institutions able to participate in partnering programmes with German Länder, particularly programmes subsidised by the EU. However, they have since taken on a life of their own. France is a quite diverse country on the ground and it has a number of long-standing problems related to regional differences.
So, although the regions are still not very powerful in comparison to the central state, they have been growing in power, particularly in areas that are culturally or economically outside of the core of the French state – Corsica, Alsace, Brittany and the overseas territories in particular. A number of significant powers over regional economic development and education are shared with the regions.