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Since last month, France – and therefore the European Union implicitly – has increased its territory by 374, and its population by 185.000. What’s more, it all happened democratically, following a 2009 referendum organised in Mayotte, an island off the coast of East Africa. The inhabitants of Mayotte have decided to join France as its 101st département, shunning an independence drive in vogue in the neighbouring Comoro Islands.

Integration en douceur

With 95 percent of its inhabitants Muslim, Mayotte is the first ever predominantly Islamic territory to join the EU (as an ultra periperal region). Mindful of this fact, France has decided to integrate Mayotte over a period of twenty years, to avoid any possible cultural shocks. Polygamy will be phased out and the marrying age for girls increased from 15 today to 18. Real estate taxes, stamp duty and income taxes, largely unknown until now, are also going to be introduced. Already, France is spending an average of 700 million euros per year to improve the island’s infrastructure, airport and port facilities. As of May, Mayotte is to be administered by a DOM (Département d’ Outre-mer), and the euro will be used as legal tender.

 Why Mayotte could be useful to the EU

 Mayotte’s geostrategic position in the Indian Ocean would expand EU members’ reach into waters affected for years by Somali pirates. The island’s natural beauty and tropical climate make it ideally suited for developing the local tourism industry further.

 More importantly, however, Mayotte could become a political lab for devising EU integration strategies aimed at North African countries such as Tunisia and other aspiring candidates. (sources: Le Monde, The Guardian)

Author :
EurActiv Network