The people of Provence-Alpes-Côtes-d’Azur (PACA) are being consulted on a name change for the region.
Tired of being responsible for an acronym, the President of PACA Michel Vauzelle has decided it is time to change the name of the region, and he has sought the views of its inhabitants to help him decide.
He has barely made a secret of the fact that his own personal preference is the more economical ‘Provence’, but he is seeking to avoid hurting the sensibilities of those who have a different view by not shouting it too loudly.
In keeping doing so he has probably also taken on board the lessons learned from the President of Languedoc-Roussillon, George Frêche, who in 2005 made a (thankfully!) ill-fated and clumsy attempt to change the name of the region to Septimanie, based on its Roman origins.
The reason why Vauzelle wants a new name for PACA is because he considers that no-one knows where it is, and that the name is a mouthful, even for a French person!
The problem he faces is that the name was always something of a compromise because of the need to try and bring together the different geographic and cultural affiliations of this vast region.
The debate about the name of the region is, therefore, intrinsically linked with its diversity.
The PACA region comprises six different departments (Alpes de Haute Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhone, Var and Vaucluse), in which live nearly 5 million inhabitants.
Residents in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Hautes-Alpes do not consider they have much in common with the people of the Bouches du Rhone, whilst those living in the regional capital Nice are likely to object fiercely against a name change for fear that Marseille might then assume its crown.
In the end, neither the President of the region or the people themselves can decide the future name of the region. All they can do is make a proposal to the French government who has the final decision.
Where there appears to be strong support for a new name, previous campaigns in other administrative areas of France have been successful in obtaining a change of name.
Perhaps one of the strangest aspects of the current name for PACA is that it contains within it words that have no administrative association with the region. The name ‘Côte d’Azur’ is merely a marketing brand used to promote the region!
The conclusion that this writer has drawn from the letters and blogs that he has read on this issue, is that most people in the region think that there are more important things to do than change its name. Nevertheless, amongst the suggestions I did see for the name of the new region, one of the more interesting ones was PROZAC!