chapter  16
23 Pages

France: From the Regionalized State to the Emergence of Regional Governance?

In France, since the nineteenth century, regionalization has been on the political agenda and has been part of the high political stakes concerning decentralization and the deconcentration of state powers. This process refers, of course, to the exercise of power and coalition games between social groups operating at different levels of government. The transfer of executive powers of the regional prefects to the regional councils in 1982 only ratified a slowly emerging process. This slowness has been caused, for the most part, by ideological, political and administrative resistance to regionalization. It is true that regionalization puts into question the organization of public power by the creation of new decisionmaking centres, new elites and a loss of state centrality. In the French napoleonic state, projects of decentralization and regionalization have their origins in traditions of the right as well as the left (Rosanvallon, 1993). These strands converged in the early 1980s and enabled the decentralization laws, the 'grand clumtier' of Fran~ois Mitterrand's first term, to be adopted without any major problems and led to legal acknowledgement of the region as a fullyfledged local authority.