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Journal of Comparative Urban Law and Policy

Abstract

France’s long history of centralized governance has generated debates as to what powers should remain with the State and what powers should devolve to sub-national governments. To ameliorate the fragmentation resulting from the small size of France’s 36,000 plus municipalities, called communes, the State authorized the creation of general-purpose, inter-communal public institutions to perform municipal functions on behalf of the communes on a greater economy of scale. The article examines the trajectory that led to the creation in 2010 of the métropole, or metropolis, the most recent of these inter-communal bodies that is designed to undertake public functions in large metropolitan areas. The article first describes France’s territorial organization of sub-national units and the decentralization movements that resulted in the devolution of more power from the State to local and regional governments. The article presents the rationale for this decentralization and analyzes the conditions that led to the State’s transfer of more power to the metropolitan level of governance. It concludes that the cooperative arrangements among the communes, structured by inter-communal bodies, was instrumental to the creation of the métropole with legal status. An examination of the French experience with metropolitan governance should prove helpful to other entities or individuals engaged in the formation and evaluation of metropolitan governments.

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