Alsace becomes a local community again

Alsace is back with the official creation, the 1er January 2021, of the European Collectivity of Alsace. Five years ago, the 1er January 2016, the Alsace region had disappeared, like Lorraine and Champagne-Ardenne, in favor of the Grand-Est region.

→ READ. Parliament grants powers to reunified Alsace

The entity has a special status. On the one hand, it has fewer powers than a regional council and remains attached to the Ghent-East region. On the other hand, it has more than the two departmental councils it merges, the Bas-Rhin and the Haut-Rhin.

A unique status

These new skills relate to cross-border cooperation with Germany and Switzerland, German bilingualism, local cultures, dialects and heritage, tourism and attractiveness (in particular the Alsace brand, the Alsace Development Agency and Alsace Destination Tourisme), transport and mobility through the transfer of the national road network, including the A35 and A36 motorways.

Vehicle registration plates symbolize the unprecedented nature of the European Collectivity of Alsace since it enjoys, like a region, its own territorial marker, above the number of departments. These are indeed disappearing as communities but not as administrative districts of the State: in practice, this means that the two prefectures are maintained, those of Bas-Rhin (67) in Strasbourg, and Haut-Rhin ( 68) in Colmar.

Alsace becomes a local community again

Towards more territorial differentiations

This specific status is part of the questioning of territorial uniformity, resulting in France from a centuries-old effort of centralization, from absolute monarchy to the Jacobin Republic. Already in 1918, the Bas-Rhin, the Haut-Rhin and the Moselle had been able to retain local law governing associations, worship, Sunday rest and public holidays, as well as health insurance.

→ READ. The future Alsace community will acquire new skills

Without even talking about overseas territories, this questioning was imposed in parallel with the deepening of decentralization, of the special status of Corsica, from 1982, with the creation of the Lyon Metropolis on 1er January 2015. The “Girondin pact” promised by Emmanuel Macron is part of this movement through the preparation of the “deconcentration, decentralization, differentiation, decomplexification” bill (known as 4D), the “differentiation” component intended to “ ensure that each territory has laws and regulations adapted to its specificities “.

Still, everything has only just begun. The new European Collectivity of Alsace will, on the one hand, have to negotiate with the executive of the Grand-Est region its margins of autonomy in terms of economic development and attractiveness. On the other hand, to ensure a balance between the Haut-Rhin and the Bas-Rhin, since the latter dominates demographically, economically and symbolically, due to the Eurometropolis of Strasbourg where the seat of the European Parliament is located. In 2013, a merger of the two departments had also failed after a local consultation: 68% of “yes” in the Bas-Rhin, but 56% of “no” in the Haut-Rhin.

For the first plenary session, Saturday January 2, 2021, in Colmar (Haut-Rhin), a political compromise should be confirmed: the presidency to Frédéric Bierry (LR), outgoing president of the Bas-Rhin departmental council, and the first vice-president chairmanship to his Haut-Rhin counterpart, Rémy With (various right). While awaiting the renewal of the assembly in the departmental elections scheduled for June 2021.


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