The Scottish referendum for independence givesBrittany and other stateless nations of Europe hope. Despite the victory of the “No Campaign”, the Scots voted in massive numbers on September 18th, and the UK had the courage to give Europe a lesson in democracy. Breton eyes have been fixed on Scotland for months now, as France have good reasons to organize a vote concerning the matter of the redesign of the “régions” map. Are the ghosts of the 1969 and 2005 referendums still haunting the French government?
When Mr. Hollande got elected in 2012 no one expected such a redesign of the French map. It was not in his campaign promises and before January 2014 no one had even heard one word about the project. At the beginning of the negotiations the reform was supposed to take place progressively over three years, but now this timetable has been accelerated. On June 2nd Hollande revealed the 14 new administrative regions (that would replace and “simplify” the current 22 regions) with a quick sketch that looked almost as if it had been drawn on the back of a napkin, with this redraw he was signing the death warrant of several historically economically and culturally coherent regions, whilst keeping Brittany in its statu quo without the 5th historical department ofLoire-Atlantique.
Ghosts of History
For Brittany it was, and still is, a critical question. It’s been almost 50 years since Loire-Atlantique, with its capital city at Naoned / Nantes, was severed from Brittany. Before the announcement of the new map people were still hoping that the new design of the regions would finally reinstate the Loire-Atlantique department into Brittany’s historical frontiers in order to respect the reality of the nation and not the shape of the map forcibly imposed by the French state.
During WW2, the Pétain government had already started to draw maps of Brittany without the Loire-Atlantique, one of the goals being to avoid any popular uprising in Brittany. The current map of the“Région Bretagne” was finally officialized in 1956 by the French government, and indeed excluding the 5th breton department.
Before this the current Loire-Atlantique had always been part of the kingdom, then dukedom, and finally province of Brittany, and Naoned/Nantes had been the capital of Brittany for most of its history.
Naoned e Breizh! (“Nantes in Brittany!” in breton. Slogan used during the reunification demonstrations.)
The official map of Brittany started to create controversy as early as the 60s and 70s. As the powers of the regions were growing, so was the opposition towards the change of Brittany’s frontiers. The claim to restore Brittany to its historical boundaries increased during the next decades, in the 70s there was a revival of the Breton culture which led to a stronger mobilization for calls to revert back to the old boundaries. With the recent political events in Scotland, this question is once again at the core of our preoccupations.
Reunification, a recognition of the past, a claim for the future
For now, the French government decided to keep a 4-departmental that are historically, culturally and economically deceptive for Brittany. A huge number of people and organizations are actively involved in movements aimed at the restoration of the nation’s actual frontiers, though the strong support by Brittany’s inhabitants for reunification is not only rooted in the desire to go back to the old frontiers, as a lot of Bretons appreciate that a reunified Brittany could also be a strong European region. With a territory the size of Denmark, almost 5 million inhabitants, and a GDP that could be a lot higher, (the Loire-Atlantique would represent 40% of Brittany’s GDP), the reunified region would hold a lot of strength within France, and several official administrations, among them Justice, have always been working with a 5 department Brittany. This is highlighted by the collective Lawyers of Brittany.
A referendum for self-determination
Several demonstrations have already been held to change the deputies position and to raise the awareness with the general public about the necessity of a referendum in the 5 departments of Brittany. Activists implemented polls, even if not acknowledged by the French government they were held be by legitimate research companies. (3) A huge BZH designed on a skyscraper in Nantes, as shown in the video attached (4), and many other civil disobedience actions have taken place.
A referendum would be necessary to let the population decide if they want the Loire-Atlantique back in Brittany, to keep the statu quo, or for the merger of the “région Bretagne” and the “région Pays-de-la-Loire”. The Senate is also in favor of the Loire-Altlantique departments self-determination, even though the Assemblée is not.
On Saturday September 27th a huge demonstration will take place in order to ask for either a direct reunification or for a referendum.
The question is still open at this stage, however, if it is clear for historians, geographers and the majority of the public that the Loire-Atlantique is indeed part of Brittany, then the definitive vote at the Assemblée will take place in October. Though even if the deputies keep their position on the design of the map of the “région Bretagne” the mobilization won’t cease.
If Brittany does, as many other stateless nations of Europe, aspire to independence, then it would never do so without the historical 5th Breton department included!