A map of the post-merger country would have 14 administrative regions instead of the present 22, with fewer local governments and less duplication of bureaucracy. The new regions would be roughly the size of small European countries, French President François Hollande noted in rolling out the plan.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls claimed the redrawn map would save France 25 billion Euros ($34 billion) in reduced administrative costs.
A poll last month indicated 68 percent of French respondents agreed cost-cutting reforms were necessary, but 77 percent feared the disappearance of their region. Many regions are famous -- Bourgogne, famous for its wine, would merge with Franche-Comte, for example -- and residents feared losing their region's cultural identity.
The poll said 61 percent of residents of prosperous Alsace did not want to merge with its less-affluent neighbor, Lorraine.
Some say combining administrative districts would not solve the bureaucratic problem.
"The real issue is local governments. We have had the same municipal map since the 18th century," said Gerard Marcou, a Sorbonne professor and public administration expert. "Napoleon managed to eliminate the villages with fewer than 300 inhabitants, we went from 44,000 to 38,000. He's the only one who has managed to get rid of small towns. The place where we could really save some money is by concentrating these small towns."
The plan must be passed by the French legislature. Hollande said he anticipates it will be enacted by 2015.
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