France d’outre-mer

France d’outre-mer

Overseas France (France d’outre-mer) consists of all the French-administered territories outside of the European continent. These territories have varying legal status and different levels of autonomy, although all (except those with no permanent inhabitants) have representation in both France’s National Assembly and Senate, which together make up the French Parliament.
Their citizens have French nationality and vote for the president of France. They have the right to vote in elections to the European Parliament (French citizens living overseas currently vote in the Overseas constituency). Overseas France includes island territories in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, French Guiana on the South American continent, and several periantarctic islands as well as a claim in Antarctica.

Almost all inhabited French administrative divisions outside Europe are classified as either overseas regions or overseas collectivites; these statuses are very different from one another from a legal and administrative standpoint. Overseas regions have exactly the same status as mainland France’s regions. The French constitution provides that, in general, French laws and regulations (France’s civil code, penal code, administrative law, social laws, tax laws, etc.) apply to French overseas regions the same as in mainland France, but can be adapted as needed to suit the region’s particular needs.

In the French overseas regions, laws cannot be adapted whereas the overseas collectivities are empowered to make their own laws, except in certain areas (such as defence, international relations, trade and currency, and judicial and administrative law).
The overseas collectivities are governed by local elected assemblies and by the French Parliament and French government, with a cabinet member, the Minister of Overseas France, in charge of issues related to the overseas territories. (New Caledonia is neither an overseas region nor an overseas collectivity; it has a sui generis status, in keeping with the Nouméa Accord.)

Overseas France has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 9,821,231 km² (3,791,998 sq. miles), and account for 17.8% of the land territory and 96.7% of the EEZ of the French Republic (excluding the district of Adélie Land, part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, where the French sovereignty is effective de jure by French law, but where the French exclusive claim on this part of Antarctica is frozen by a mandatory international cooperation since the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959).


Overseas Region

French Guiana

Overseas region (Région d’outre-mer) is a recent designation given to the overseas departments that have identical powers to those of the regions of metropolitan France.
The overseas regions should not be confused with the overseas collectivities which have a particular status. As integral parts of the French Republic, they are represented in the National Assembly, Senate and Economic and Social Council, elect a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and use the euro as their currency.

Although these territories have had these political powers since 1982, when France’s decentralisation policy dictated that they be given elected regional councils along with other regional powers, the designation overseas regions dates only to the 2003 constitutional change; indeed, the new wording of the constitution aims to give no precedence to either appellation overseas department or overseas region, although the second is still virtually unused by French media.

The following have overseas region status:

  • French Guiana in South America
  • Guadeloupe in the Caribbean (Americas)
  • Martinique in the Caribbean (Americas)
  • Mayotte in the Indian Ocean (Africa)
  • Réunion in the Indian Ocean (Africa)
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon was once an overseas department but were demoted to a territorial collectivity in 1985, before the French regions were created.


Collectivité d’outre-mer (COM)

The French overseas collectivities (Collectivité d’outre-mer or COM), like the French regions, are first-order administrative divisions of France. The COMs include some former French overseas territories and other French overseas entities with a particular status, all of which became COMs by constitutional reform on 28 March 2003. The COMs should not be confused with the overseas regions and overseas departments, which have no particular status. As integral parts of France, overseas collectivities are represented in the National Assembly, Senate and Economic and Social Council. Only one COM, Saint Martin, is part of the European Union and can vote to elect members of the European Parliament (MEP). The Pacific COMs use the CFP franc, a currency pegged to the euro, whereas the Atlantic COMs use the euro directly. As of 31 March 2011, there were five COMs:

French Polynesia became a COM in 2003. Its statutory law of 27 February 2004 gives it the designation of overseas country inside the Republic (French: pays d’outre-mer au sein de la République, or POM), but without legal modification of its status. French Polynesia has a great degree of autonomy, two symbolic manifestations of which are the title of the President of French Polynesia (Le président de la Polynésie française) and its additional designation as a pays d’outre-mer. Legislature: Assembly of French Polynesia since 2004.
Saint Barthélemy, an island in the Lesser Antilles. St. Barthelemy was separated from the overseas department of Guadeloupe in 2007. It has a territorial council and executive council, and with separation ceased to be part of the European Union.
Saint Martin, the northern part of the island of Saint Martin in the Lesser Antilles. St. Martin was separated from the overseas department of Guadeloupe in 2007. It has a territorial council and executive council, and with separation remained a part of the European Union.
Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. It has a territorial council. It is the last remaining part of New France not ceded by France.
Wallis and Futuna, three small islands in the Pacific Ocean. Has a high administrator and territorial assembly.

Former COMs and overseas territories

  • Mayotte was a COM from 1976 until 31 March 2011, when it became an overseas department.
  • New Caledonia was classified as an overseas territory beginning in 1946, but as a result of the 1998 Nouméa Accord, it gained a special status (statut particulier or statut original) in 1999.
    A New Caledonian citizenship was established, and a gradual transfer of power from the French state to New Caledonia itself was begun, to last from fifteen to twenty years.
  • Clipperton Island (Île de Clipperton) is a 9 km2 (3.5 sq mi) coral atoll located 1,280 km (800 miles) south-west of Acapulco, Mexico, in the Pacific Ocean. It is held as state private property under the direct authority of the French government, and is administered by France’s Overseas Minister.


Territoire d’outre-mer

The term overseas territory (Territoire d’outre-mer or TOM) is an administrative division of France and is currently only applied to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

The division differs from that of overseas departments (French: Département d’outre-mer or DOM), but because of some common peculiarities, DOMs, TOMs and other overseas possessions under other statuses are often referred to collectively as DOM/TOM. Unlike the British Overseas Territories, which are not constitutionally part of the United Kingdom or its national territory, they are integral parts of the French Republic.

Former overseas territories

  • French India, from 1946 to 1954, now the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry
  • New Caledonia, from 1946 to 1999, now a special collectivity
  • French Polynesia, from 1946 to 2003, now an overseas collectivity
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon, from 1946 to 1976 and 1985 to 2003, now an overseas collectivity
  • Wallis and Futuna, from 1961 to 2003, now an overseas collectivity
  • Mayotte, from 1974 to 2003, now an overseas department


Political representation in the French Parliament

French National Assembly

With 2,691,000 inhabitants in 2013, Overseas France account for 4.1% of the population of the French Republic. They enjoy a corresponding representation in the two chambers of the French Parliament.

Representation in the National Assembly

In the 13th Legislature (2012-2017), Overseas France is represented by 27 députés (M.P.s) in the French National Assembly, accounting for 4.7% of the 577 députés in the National Assembly:

Réunion: 7 députés
Guadeloupe: 4 députés
Martinique: 4 députés
French Polynesia: 3 députés
French Guiana: 2 députés
Mayotte: 2 député
New Caledonia: 2 députés
Saint Pierre and Miquelon: 1 député
Wallis and Futuna: 1 député
Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin: 1 député

Representation in the Senate

French Senate

Since September 2011, Overseas France is represented by 21 senators in the French Senate, accounting for 6.0% of the 343 senators in the Senate:

Réunion: 4 senators
Guadeloupe: 3 senators
French Guiana: 2 senators
French Polynesia: 2 senators
Martinique: 2 senators
Mayotte: 2 senators
New Caledonia: 2 senators
Saint Barthélemy: 1 senator
Saint Martin: 1 senator
Saint Pierre and Miquelon: 1 senator
Wallis and Futuna: 1 senator