France is a prominent nation of Western Europe sharing borders with Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany and Andorra. France is divided into 22 administrative regions which are further divided into 96 departments that are subdivided into 342 arrondissements. These arrondissements are further divided into 3,883 cantons. These cantons are in turn administratively divided into 36,569communes. While mainland France consists of 22 regions, there are 5 overseas regions which includes French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Mayotte, Martinique and Reunion which are administered in same way as the metropolitan regions. Citizens from all the regions of France are eligible to vote for legislative and presidential elections.
The regions of France gained recognition and legal status by the ‘Law of Decentralization’ that was passed in March 1982. The first elections for choosing regional representatives were contested on March 16, 1986. The administrative divisions of Metropolitan France may have come into force in recent times but are basically based on the system of provinces existing in pre-revolutionary France. Most of these regions have retained the name of the former provinces with a few recent creations of historic provinces. For instance the historic province of Normandy is divided into two modern regions for administrative purposes. Each region of France is unique with its distinct culture, traditions and dialects.
The regions of France do not have legislative authority and hence have to follow the statutory laws of the central government. The region of Normandy is divided for administrative purposes into upper and lower Normandy. Midi-Pyrenees extending over 45,378 km² is the largest region of France. Paris-Isle-of-France is the most prosperous region in France. The three communes of Paris, Lyon and Marseille are made up of 45 municipal arrondissements.
Metropolitan France, that includes continental France and the island of Corsica, is territorially divided into 22 regions. All the regions of France are administered by a regional council consisting of elected members. The regional president presides over the council with the support of the local administration. The regions have major power in various fields such as economic development, education, tourism, infrastructure and transport. Almost since 1981, the regions have gained control over the major sectors of their area and have consequently each region has evolved its own distinct regional identity. The administrative divisions of France, principally made up of regions are further divided into counties, local areas and boroughs.
There have been moves to bring in major reforms in the regional administrative structure of France including the local government. The new administrative structure may see the light of the day by 2014. On the anvil are reforms to reduce the number of regions to eighteen with the smaller regions combined into one. This includes combining the two regions of Normandy into one so also with the region of Burgundy and Franche Comté and Auvergne and Limousin. In all probability, either the region of Picardy or Pays de la Loire may lose its regional status.