The French Parliament has voted in favour of a change in the law that could herald the reunification of Brittany.
In the evening of Wednesday 21st December 2011 the French Parliament voted in favour of allowing residents of a department to hold a referendum without the agreement of other residents of the region.
The change in the law could potentially mean that residents of the Loire Atlantique department, which forms part of the historic nation of Brittany and includes the historic Breton capital city of Naoned/Nantes, will be able to vote in favour of unification without having to convince others in the region to do the same. In 1941 the Loire Atlantique department was merged with the French Pays de la Loire region by the Fascist Vichy Government, which it has remained a part of ever since.
It has been reported that there is widespread support among the people of the Loire Atlantique department for reunification with Brittany and similarly people in Brittany are in favour of this piece of their historic territory returning to them. Within the last decade in particular there has been a growing movement among activists to raise the profile of the campaign to reunify Brittany. In June this year a mass demonstration took place in Naoned that attracted 5000 people. The aim of the protesters was to apply pressure on the French presidential candidates, in time for elections in 2012, to come out in support of Breton unification. In June 2010 the Breton Regional Council voted in favour of a motion on the `territorial collective' of Brittany, which recognized the Loire Atlantique department as part of the traditional territory of Brittany.
Currently the Pays de la Loire region has approximately 3.5 million residents, with 1.3 million of these people inhabiting the Loire Atlantique Department. The new law could potentially mean that the 1.3 million residents of the Loire Atlantique Department can vote on whether they want their department to return to Breton control, without the approval of the other 2.2 million residents of the Pays de la Loire region. For the Loire Atlantique electorate to be able to decide whether their department is reunited with Brittany, without having to convince the rest of the Pays de la Loire region is a significant development, because traditionally the inhabitants of the Pays de la Loire region outside of the Loire Atlantique Department have been against reunification.
Naoned is an economically strong region in its own right and currently the capital of the Pays de la Loire region. The president of the Pays de la Loire region, who is one of the biggest opponents of reunification, said he was "surprised" by the vote. A close advisor to French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Franck Louvrier, said he was pleased by the draft amendment, arguing that the idea of giving the Loire Atlantique Department back to Brittany was "decidedly favourable" and welcomed the development, which he said was a democratic move.
The draft text of the bill will now need to go before the French parliament's upper house, the Senate, for approval.
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