An overseas department (French: département d’outre-mer or DOM) is a department of France that is outside metropolitan France. They have nearly the same political status as metropolitan departments, although they have special constitutional provisions that allow them greater autonomy and are excluded from certain domestic statistics, such as the unemployment rate. The overseas departments are not the same as the overseas collectivities, which have a legally distinct status. As integral parts of France and the European Union, overseas departments are represented in the National Assembly, Senate, and Economic and Social Council, vote to elect members of the European Parliament (MEP), and also use the euro as their currency. Each overseas department is also an overseas region.
This article is part of the series on
Administrative divisions of France
(incl. overseas regions)
(incl. overseas departments)
Others in Overseas France
Since March 2011, the overseas departments of France are the following:
- French Guiana in South America
- Guadeloupe in the Caribbean (North America)
- Martinique in the Caribbean (North America)
- Mayotte in the Indian Ocean (Africa)
- Réunion in the Indian Ocean (Africa)
France's earliest, short-lived attempt at setting up overseas départements was after Napoleon's conquest of the Republic of Venice in 1797, when the hitherto Venetian Ionian islands fell to the French Directory and were organised as the départments of Mer-Égée, Ithaque and Corcyre. In 1798 the Russian Admiral Ushakov evicted the French from these islands, and though France regained them in 1802, the three départments were not revived.
Under the 1947 Constitution of the Fourth Republic, the French colonies of Algeria in North Africa (independent since 1962), Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean, French Guiana in South America, and Réunion in the Indian Ocean were defined as overseas departments.
Since 1982, following the French government’s policy of decentralisation, overseas departments have elected regional councils with powers similar to those of the regions of metropolitan France. As a result of a constitutional revision that occurred in 2003, these regions are now to be called overseas regions; indeed the new wording of the Constitution gave no precedence to the terms overseas department or overseas region, though the latter is still virtually unused by the French media.
The overseas collectivity Saint Pierre and Miquelon was an overseas department from 1976 to 1985. All five of France's overseas departments have between 200,000 and a million people each, whereas St. Pierre and Miquelon has only about 6,000, and the smaller collectivity unit therefore seemed more appropriate for the islands.
- Israel in Search of a War: The Sinai Campaign, 1955-1956, page 39, Moti Golani, Avi Shlaim, Sussex Academic Press 1998
- World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision