Regional Decentralisation in France: The Case of Brittany

Published date01 April 1984
Date01 April 1984
Regional Decentralisation in France: The Case
Vaughan Rogers
The fate of the regional echelon in France is hanging
the balance. The
Socialist administration of Francois Mitterrand came to power in 1981 pledged
to a far-reaching programme of political decentralisation which, amongst other
things, would elevate the region to the status of a local authority in its own
right, with important new powers, especially in the field of planning and regional
economic development.
first step in the promised local government 'revolution', contained numerous impor-
tant provisions which tended to shift power away from the administrative represen-
atives of the state in the provinces and towards the democratically elected repre-
sentatives of the local population. However, as far as the region is concerned,
the full impact of the decentralisation reforms is potential rather than actual.
The Regional Councils, unlike those of the d6partements and communes, are not as
yet, elected by direct universal suffrage. Until this fundamental condition is
fulfilled, they cannot accede to full local authority status and take on the range
of new powers which the Government originally intended to confer upon them.
election of the Regional Councils was initially intended to take place in 1983,
but as we approach the second anniversary of the Loi Deferre, this crucial step
has still not been taken.
a result, the region retains its former legal
status as an etablissement public, or public corporation, and has entered into
a state of limbo.
this climate of uncertainty,
would seem particularly appropriate to
assess the progress of regional decentralisation from the creation of the region
a public corporation in 1972 to the beginning of the current and incomplete
series of reforms.
interpretations of regional institutions have tended to be excessively dismissive,
suggesting that their lack of effectiveness has stemmed essentially from the res-
trictive provisions of the 1972 reforms.
the 1972 reforms undoubtedly imposed some important limitations on the powers of
the regions, their effectiveness, and therefore the progress of regional decen-
tralisation, has been substantially determined by the strategies adopted by the
regional elites themselves.
focus is that of Brittany.
The Loi Deferre of March 2nd 1982, which was to be the
The discussion which follows
argue that a number of recent
The contention here
be that although
The particular region upon which this discussion
The Framework
regional policy: constraints upon aidtonomy
The Loi Frey of 1972 established a regional framework which consisted essen-
tially of three components. First
all, a Regional Council was created,
per cent of which was composed of all parliamentarians elected in the region and
per cent coming from representatives of the local authorities, the dgpartements
and communes.
deployment of its own regional budget and a consultative role in the process of
drawing up the National Economic Plan. The reform also created an Economic and
Social Committee, composed of representatives of the socio-professional and cultural
the region.
was given the right to be consulted in advance on
all matters to be submitted to the Council.
placed in the hands
the Regional Prefect who was obliged to convene assembly
meetings, draw up and implement the regional budget and prepare the agenda for
assembly sessions.
The assemblies were thus subject to the control of the administration when
they met to discuss the documents prepared for them by the Regional Prefect.
1972 reforms also imposed considerable restrictions on the powers of the regions
which resulted, in large measure, from the inferior legal status they received,
The Regional Council was given decision-making powers over the
The executive responsibility was

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