More than 20 regional languages and dialects make up France's traditional diversity (Delegation generale a la langue française et aux langues de France 2009). In fact, "France is one of the European countries where the ethnocultural minorities are the most numerous and active" (Nicolas, 2006, 290). For the purposes of this research, examples will be drawn from the cases of the Alsatian, Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican and Occitan minorities, whose populations vary between as few as 125,000 (for Catalan) and as many as 2 million (for the speakers of Occitan).
1. FEDERAL OR QUASI-FEDERAL TERRITORIAL AUTONOMY
|Territorial Autonomy Scores|
- France is a unitary state. The Constitution de la Republique française states that "France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic."
- However, since 1982, the country has adopted a decentralization policy and transferred responsibilities to local and regional authorities. There are 26 administrative regions (four of which are overseas) that have the power to make regulations for matters under their jurisdiction, and are entitled to levy their own taxes (Ministere des affaires etrangeres 2006). However, according to Nicolas, their very small prerogatives and modest budget make these regions "appear as minors compared to their counterparts in federal states" (2006, 301).
- Even though the regions correspond more or less to the territories where national minorities are concentrated, it is not a perfect match: the Brittany administrative region, for example, consists of only four of the five departments that are part of the historical province (Nicolas 2006).
- Constitutional reform on the decentralized organization of the state was passed in 2003. This reform enshrined the principle of decentralization in Article 1 of the constitution and included the regions among the administrative divisions referred to in the constitution, making their role permanent.
- Corsica has had a slightly different trajectory, as a series of laws since the 1980s have granted the region a distinct status. Its cultural specificity was recognized, to a certain degree, by the 1982 Loi portant statut particulier de la region de Corse, which provided for the election of a Corsican Assembly with budget- ary, legislative and consultative powers. This law was modified in 1991 to grant the region enhanced powers. The ‘Matignon Process’ negotiations in the early 2000s between Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and twenty-eight deputies of the Corsican Assembly led to a proposal for enhanced autonomy, but the French Constitutional Council rejected the delegation of legislative powers to the Corsican Assembly on the grounds that it threatened the stability of the French state (Hossay 2004). In 2018 Corsica’s main administrative bodies (the Assembly, the Executive Council, and the departments of Haute Corse and Corse-du-Sud) were merged into a new, single body, the Collectivity of Corsica (Nationalia.info 2019).
2. OFFICIAL LANGUAGE STATUS, EITHER IN THE REGION OR NATIONALLY
|Official Language Status Scores|
- France has implemented discriminatory measures against languages other than French for the past two centuries (Nicolas 2006). Since 1992, Article 2 of the Constitution de la Republique française states that the language of the Republic is French.
- However, important progress towards the recognition of minority languages has been made in the last two decades. In 2001, the "Delegation generale a la langue française" became the "Delegation generale a la langue française et aux langues de France," and a section on regional languages has since been included in the institution's annual reports to Parliament (Judge 2007). Moreover, the constitution was amended in 2008 to include article 75-1, which states that "les langues regionales appartiennent au patrimoine de la France."
- Recognition of regional languages by the central state is, however, still limited. For example, while regional acts and official documents can be published in the minority language, only the French version has legal value (Delegation generale a la langue française et aux langues de France 2009).
- Important changes are also visible at the regional level. Some of France's minority languages have recently been granted official status by regional councils: Occitan in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region in 2003 and Breton and Gallo in the Brittany region in 2004 (Judge 2007).
- Discussions about the enhanced autonomy of Corsica in 2000 included greater protection for the Corsican language, but this enhanced protection was never made official.
3. GUARANTEES OF REPRESENTATION IN THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT OR ON CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS
|Guaranteed Representation Scores|
- The French Parliament consists of the National Assembly and the Senate. The members of the National Assembly are elected directly by the citizens in single-seats constituencies. Constituencies have to coincide with departmental borders.
- By contrast, the Senate seeks to ensure representation of the Republic's territorial collectivities (Constitution, art. 24). Its members are elected by indirect suffrage by elected representatives from each department.
- These electoral entities have not been designed to ensure representation of France's national minorities. The borders of the departments do not necessarily coincide with those of the national minorities, and there is no guarantee that the minority regions will be defined as constituencies.
- The Constitutional Council is composed of nine members who are nominated by the presidents of the Republic, of the National Assembly and of the Senate (each appoints three members) (Conseil Constitutionnel n.d.). Thus, there is no guarantee that minorities are represented.
- The National Assembly adopted a law in October 2010 to modify the repartition of seats and the delineation of some constituencies, but this had no impact on the guarantees of representation (or lack thereof) for national minorities (LOI n° 2010-165 du 23 fevrier 2010).
4. PUBLIC FUNDING OF MINORITY-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITIES / SCHOOLS / MEDIA
|Public Funding Scores|
- Until recently, the French government actively discouraged the use of minority languages, and only a limited number of private schools offered instruction in Breton (since 1969), Catalan (since 1976) or Occitan (since 1982) (Judge 2007).
- Since the 1980s, a number of politicians have taken concrete measures to promote the use of regional languages, and minority languages are now taught to varying degrees at some state schools. The first bilingual state schools were set up in the Basque and Breton regions in 1983, followed by Corsican (1992), Catalan (1993) and Occitan (1999) (ibid.).
- Recent laws and "arretes" have allowed the teaching of ever more regional languages in state schools, and the number of children benefiting from these programs is increasing. Thousands of students enrolled in primary, secondary or college education receive bilingual education in French and Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Occitan or Alsatian at either state or state-funded private schools (ibid.).
- This evolution is even more visible in Corsica, where Corsican classes are now an option in all primary and secondary schools. Hossay (2004) indicates that negotiations in the early 2000s would have made mandatory the teaching of Corsican during the normal hours of elementary schools (rather than as an after-school activity), but this was rejected by the French Constitutional Council.
- That being said, Nicolas specifies that, in the case of Breton, state subsidies for the teaching of the regional language remain very limited and are "derisory in comparison with what a real linguistic policy should look like" (2006, 306).
- The public television channel, France 3, has had the responsibility since 1982 to contribute to the expression of regional languages and to act as the main provider of regional programs (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 2004).
- Many official texts have reinforced this message since then. In 2000, the law on the freedom of communication highlighted that public (i.e., state-funded) media has a duty to promote minority languages and cultures. This was substantiated in 2004 by a decree stating that financial help could now be avail- able to support publications in the regional languages (Judge 2007).
- In practice, this is achieved through the weekly broadcasting of regional programs in the local language(s). The 2005 Rapport au Parlement sur l'emploi de la langue française however shows important discrepancies between the amount of time allocated to each language, varying from only a few minutes to five or six hours per week (Delegation generale a la langue française et aux langues de France 2005; Judge 2007). This observation is valid both for radio and television programming.
- One case that stands out is that of Corsica, where the public community has been granted the right to negotiate directly with public companies in the broadcasting sector in order to ensure the development of the Corsican language and culture. As a result, the television channel France 3 in Corsica has to broadcast a minimum of 15 hours per day in Corsican (Delegation generale a la langue française et aux langues de France 2009).
5. CONSTITUTIONAL OR PARLIAMENTARY AFFIRMATION OF "MULTINATIONALISM"
|Affirmation of Multinationalism Scores|
- Since 1789, France has emphasized the unity of all its citizens and refused to recognize rights for groups based on common origin, belief, culture or language. This principle is embedded in Article 1 of the Constitution de la Republique française, which also prevents the census from containing questions on religion, race or language use.
- Consequently, the Parliament has always been cautious of recognizing rights for groups formed on these bases (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 2004).
- The proposed "Statut Joxe" of 1991 on the territorial collectivity of Corsica contained a controversial passage: “The French Republic guarantees to the historic and cultural community constituted by the Corsican people, component of the French people, the right to preserve its cultural identity and to defend its specific economic and social interests. These rights related to insularity are to be exercised with respect for national unity, in the framework of the Constitution, of the laws of the Republic, and of this present statute” (loi no 91-428 du 13 mai 1991 Statut de la Collectivité territoriale de Corse). This statement was seen as too weak by Corsican nationalists and a threat to French national unity by conservatives, and the Constitutional Council argued that “in the preamble of 1958, as in that of 1946 and in the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789, ‘the French people’ is always singular” and so recognizing a Corsican people “is contrary to the Constitution which only recognizes a French people, composed of all French citizens without distinction of origin, race, or religion” (Hossay 2004, 420). The controversial passage was replaced by a reference to "the region of Corsica as a territorial collectivity of the Republic" (Judge 2007, 101; Hossay 2004, 420).
- France sometimes ratifies international treaties referring to minority rights or recognition, but usually subjects these treaties to reservations in order to prevent problematic clauses from being enforceable. This was the case when France signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (Eysseric 2005).
6. ACCORDED INTERNATIONAL PERSONALITY
(E.G., ALLOWING THE SUB-STATE REGION TO SIT ON INTERNATIONAL BODIES, SIGN TREATIES, OR HAVE THEIR OWN OLYMPIC TEAM)
|International Personality Scores|
- According to Keating, "the French state has historically been very jealous of its monopoly on representation abroad" (2000, 5).
- Article 52 of the constitution gives the power to negotiate and ratify treaties to the president of the Republic. No explicit role or responsibility is given to the regions.
- No evidence can be found of the representation of the French regions on international committees and organizations, with the exception of the committees comprising the many regions of the European Union's member countries. For example, the French delegation to the Committee of the Regions of the European Union includes representatives of the Alsace and Brittany regions (Committee of the Regions n.d.).
- Some regions have sought to be actively involved internationally. Brittany thus initiated bilateral cooperation with other European or international regions and participated in some interregional committees (Region Bretagne n.d.). Since 1996, Corsica has had an office in Brussels to ensure the follow-up on the region's files with the European Union (Collectivité de Corse n.d.).