Overseas France

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Overseas France
Motto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
Anthem: "La Marseillaise"
Territory of the French Republic (red) Overseas territories (circled) Claimed territory (Adélie Land; hatched)
Territory of the French Republic (red)
Overseas territories (circled)
Claimed territory (Adélie Land; hatched)
Location of
Largest settlementsFort-de-France (Martinique), Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe), Saint Denis (La Réunion), Saint Pierre (La Réunion), Nouméa (New Caledonia)
LanguagesFrench, Antillean Creole, Guianan Creole, Reunionese Creole, Shimaore, Tahitian, Marquesan, 'Uvean, Futunan, Drehu, Nengone, Paicî, Ajië, Javanese, and 35 other native languages of New Caledonia
• President
Emmanuel Macron
• Minister
Sébastien Lecornu
• Total
120,396[note 1] km2 (46,485 sq mi)
• Estimate
2,785,000 (Jan 2021)
CFP Franc
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD)

Overseas France (French: France d'outre-mer, l'Outre-mer, or colloquially les DOM-TOM) consists of thirteen French-administered territories outside Europe, mostly remains of the French colonial empire that chose to remain a part of the French state under various statuses after decolonization. This collective name is used in everyday life in France but is not an administrative designation in its own right. Indeed, the five overseas regions have exactly the same administrative status as the metropolitan regions while the five overseas collectivities are semi-autonomous and New Caledonia is an autonomous territory. Overseas France includes island territories in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, French Guiana on the South American continent, and several peri-Antarctic islands as well as a claim in Antarctica. Excluding the district of Adélie Land, where French sovereignty is effective de jure by French law, but where the French exclusive claim on this part of Antarctica is frozen by the Antarctic Treaty (signed in 1959), overseas France covers a land area of 119,396 km2 (46,099 sq mi) and accounts for 18.0% of the French Republic's land territory.[1] Its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 9,825,538 km2 (3,793,661 sq mi) accounts for 96.7% of the EEZ of the French Republic.[2]

Outside Europe, four broad classes of overseas French territorial administration currently exist: overseas departments/regions, overseas collectivities, the sui generis territory of New Caledonia, and uninhabited territories. From a legal and administrative standpoint, these four classes have varying legal status and levels of autonomy, although all permanently inhabited territories have representation in both France's National Assembly and Senate, which together make up the French Parliament.

2,785,000 people lived in overseas France in January 2021.[3] Most of these residents are citizens of France and citizens of the European Union. This makes them able to vote in French and European elections.

Varying constitutional statuses[edit]

Overseas regions and departments[edit]

Historical population
1950 847,000—    
1960 1,103,000+30.2%
1970 1,388,000+25.8%
1980 1,582,000+14.0%
1990 1,921,000+21.4%
2000 2,295,000+19.5%
2010 2,622,000+14.2%
2020 2,775,000+5.8%
2021 2,785,000+0.4%
January 2021: Total population of all overseas departments and collectivities: 2,785,000.
Total population of five overseas departments: 2,172,000.
Total population of six overseas collectivities: 613,000.
French Polynesia[4]
New Caledonia[5]
Saint Barthélemy[6]
Saint Martin[6]
Saint Pierre and Miquelon[6]
Wallis et Futuna[7]

Overseas regions have exactly the same status as France's mainland 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 just as in metropolitan France, but can be adapted as needed to suit the region's particular needs. Hence, the local administrations of French overseas regions cannot themselves pass new laws.

Overseas collectivities[edit]

The category of "overseas collectivity" (French: collectivité d'outre-mer or COM) was created by France's constitutional reform of 28 March 2003. Each overseas collectivity has its own statutory laws.

In contrast to overseas departments/regions, the overseas collectivities are empowered to make their own laws, except in certain areas reserved to the French national government (such as defense, 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 the Overseas, in charge of issues related to the overseas territories.

  • French Polynesia (1946–2003: overseas territory, since 2003: overseas collectivity) In 2004 it was given the designation of "overseas country" (French: pays d'outre-mer), but the Constitutional Council of France has clarified that this designation did not create a new political category.
  • Saint Barthélemy: In 2003, Saint-Barthélemy voted to become an overseas collectivity of France. Saint-Barthélemy is not part of the European Union, having changed the status to an overseas country or territory associated with the European Union in 2012.
  • Saint Martin: In 2003, the populations of Saint-Martin voted in favour of secession from Guadeloupe in order to become separate overseas collectivity of France.[8] On 7 February 2007, the French Parliament passed a bill granting COM status to both jurisdictions.[9] The new status took effect on 22 February 2007 when the law was published in the Journal Officiel.[10] Saint-Martin remains part of the European Union, as stated in the Treaty of Lisbon.[11]
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon (1976–85: overseas department, 1985–2003: sui generis overseas territory, since 2003: overseas collectivity). Despite being given the political status of "overseas collectivity," Saint Pierre et Miquelon is called collectivité territoriale de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, literally "territorial collectivity."
  • Wallis and Futuna (1961–2003: overseas territory, since 2003: overseas collectivity). It is still commonly referred to as a territoire (Territoire des îles Wallis et Futuna).

Sui generis collectivity[edit]

  • New Caledonia had the status of an overseas territory from 1946 to 1998, but as a result of the 1998 Nouméa Accord it gained a special status (statut particulier or sui generis) in 1999. A New Caledonian citizenship was established (in addition to the French citizenship which is kept in parallel, along with the European citizenship), and a gradual transfer of power from the French state to New Caledonia itself was begun, to last from 15 to 20 years.[12]

Overseas territory[edit]

Special status[edit]

  • Clipperton Island (French: Île de Clipperton or Île de la Passion, Spanish: Isla de la Pasión) 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 an overseas state private property under the direct authority of the French government, and is administered by France's Overseas Minister.

Political representation in legislatures[edit]

With 2,785,000 inhabitants in 2021, overseas France accounts for 4.1% of the population of the French Republic.[3] They enjoy a corresponding representation in the two chambers of the French Parliament and in the European Union's legislative institutions.

National Assembly (France)[edit]

In the 14th Legislature (2017–2022), overseas France is represented by 27 deputies in the French National Assembly, accounting for 4.7% of the 577 deputies in the National Assembly:

Senate (France)[edit]

Since September 2011, overseas France has been represented by 21 senators in the French Senate, accounting for 6.0% of the 348 senators in the Senate:

European Parliament (European Union)[edit]

The territories used to be collectively represented in the European Parliament by the Overseas Territories of France constituency. Since the 2019 European elections, France decided to switch to a single constituency, putting an end to all regional constituencies, including the Overseas Territories constituency.

Council (European Union)[edit]

The special territories of EU Member states are not separately represented in the EU Council. Every member state represents all its citizens in the Council.


Inhabited departments and collectivities[edit]

The eleven inhabited French overseas territories are:

Flag[note 2] Name Capital Population Land area
Population density
(inh. per km2)
Status Location Notes
Flag of French Guiana.svg French Guiana Cayenne 294,071
(Jan. 2021)[13]
83,534[14] 3.5 Overseas department / region South America
French Polynesia French Polynesia Papeete 278,434
(Jan 2020)[15]
3,521[16] 79 Overseas collectivity South Pacific Ocean
Flag of Guadeloupe (local).svg Guadeloupe Basse-Terre 375,857
(Jan 2021)[13]
1,628[14] 231 Overseas department / region Caribbean
Flag of the Territorial Collectivity of Martinique.svg Martinique Fort-de-France 355,094
(Jan 2021)[13]
1,128[14] 315
Flag of Mayotte (local).svg Mayotte Mamoudzou 288,926
(Jan 2021)[13]
374[16] 773 Mozambique Channel Voted on 29 March 2009, in favour of attaining overseas department/region status. That status became effective on March 31, 2011.
Also claimed by Comoros.
Flag of New Caledonia.svg New Caledonia Nouméa 271,407
(Sept 2019)[17]
18,575.5[18] 14.6 Sui generis collectivity South Pacific Ocean Independence referendums occurred on 4 November 2018 (56.4% voting against and 43.6% voting in favor), as well as on 4 October 2020 (53.3% voting against and 46.7% voting in favour). A third and final one is due to be held in December 2021.
Proposed flag of Réunion (VAR).svg Réunion Saint-Denis 858,450
(Jan 2021)[13]
2,504[14] 343 Overseas department / region Indian Ocean
Flag of Saint Barthelemy (local).svg Saint Barthélemy Gustavia 9,961
(Jan. 2017[note 3])[19]
25[note 4][20] 398 Overseas collectivity Caribbean Detached from Guadeloupe on 22 February 2007.
Flag of France.svg Saint Martin Marigot 34,065
(Jan 2018)[21]
53[22] 640
Flag of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.svg Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint-Pierre 6,008
(Jan. 2016[note 5])[23]
242[16] 25 North Atlantic Ocean
Flag of Wallis and Futuna.svg Wallis and Futuna Mata-Utu 11,558
(Jul. 2018[note 6])[24]
142[16] 81 South Pacific Ocean

Uninhabited overseas territories[edit]

(Lands generally uninhabited, except by researchers in scientific stations)

Flag Name District Scattered islands Capital Land area (km2) Status Location Notes
Flag of France.svg Clipperton 2[25] French state private property Central America
French Southern and Antarctic Lands French Southern and Antarctic Lands Crozet Islands Alfred Faure 340[26] TAAF district Indian Ocean
Kerguelen Islands Port-aux-Français 7,215[26] population: 45 researchers in winter, 110 in summer
Saint-Paul Island and
Amsterdam Island
Martin-de-Viviès 66[26]
Adélie Land Dumont d'Urville Station 432,000[26] Antarctica Under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty System
Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean Banc du Geyser 0 Mozambique Channel Claimed by Madagascar and Comoros
Bassas da India 1[26] Claimed by Madagascar
Europa 30[26]
Glorioso Islands 7[26] Indian Ocean Claimed by Comoros and Madagascar
Juan de Nova 5[26] Mozambique Channel Claimed by Madagascar
Tromelin Island 1[26] Indian Ocean Claimed by Mauritius


Outre-mer en.png

Largest cities in overseas France[edit]

Ranked by population in the urban area:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Excluding Adélie Land.
  2. ^ Article 2 of the French Constitution states that the French Flag is the only legal flag of France. Only French Polynesia, an overseas country, and New Caledonia, a special collectivity are allowed to have their official flags. This right was granted to French Polynesia by a 6 September 1984, law and to New Caledonia by the Nouméa Accord. The Administrator of French Antarctica is also granted his own flag through a 23 February 2007 ordinance. Historical flags are sometimes used but have no basis in law. Many territories use unofficial flags to represent the territories. The unofficial flags are shown in this table.
  3. ^ Last population census in January 2017. The next population census in Saint Barthélemy will take place in January 2022.
  4. ^ 25 km² including the outlying uninhabited islets. 21 km² without the outlying islets.
  5. ^ Data from population census taken in January 2016.
  6. ^ Last population census in July 2018. The next population census in Wallis and Futuna will take place in 2023.


  1. ^ Land area of the four old overseas departments ([1]), Mayotte, the overseas collectivities, and New Caledonia (page 21), the French Southern and Antarctic Lands and the Scattered Islands ([2] Archived 19 June 2018 at the Wayback Machine), and Clipperton ([3]).
  2. ^ "Sea Around Us – Fisheries, Ecosystems and Biodiversity". Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b The population of all five overseas departments totaled 2,172,000 [4] in January 2021. The population of the overseas collectivities amounted to 613,000 inhabitants (Saint-Pierre and Miquelon [5], Saint-Barthélemy [6], Saint-Martin [7], French Polynesia [8], Wallis et Futuna [9], New Caledonia [10]). The total population of the overseas departments and territories of France is estimated at 2,790,000.
  4. ^ "Les populations légales de Polynésie française en 2017" (in French). Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  5. ^ "Bilan démographique 2019". Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques Nouvelle-Calédonie. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Populations légales 2015: Populations légales des collectivités d'outre-mer en 2015" (in French). Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  7. ^ "Les populations légales de Wallis et Futuna en 2018" (in French). Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  8. ^ "French Caribbean voters reject change". Caribbean Net News. 9 December 2003. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2007. However, voters in the two tiny French dependencies of Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin, which have been administratively attached to Guadeloupe, approved the referendum and are set to acquire the new status of "overseas collectivity".
  9. ^ Magras, Bruno (16 February 2007). "Letter of Information from the Mayor to the residents and non-residents, to the French and to the foreigners, of Saint Barthelemy" (PDF). St. Barth Weekly. p. 2. Retrieved 18 February 2007. On 7 February of this year, the French Parliament adopted the law granting Saint-Barthélemy the Statute of an Overseas Collectivity.
  10. ^ "Saint-Barth To Become An Overseas Collectivity" (PDF). St. Barth Weekly. 9 February 2007. p. 2. Retrieved 9 February 2007.
  11. ^ "Treaty of Lisbon, Article 2, points 287 and 293". Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  12. ^ "Nouvelle-Calédonie", Le Petit Larousse (2010), Paris, page 1559.
  13. ^ a b c d e INSEE. "Estimation de population par région, sexe et grande classe d'âge - Années 1975 à 2021" (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  14. ^ a b c d INSEE. "Comparateur de territoire" (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  15. ^ "Etat civil. Principaux indicateurs depuis 1984". ISPF. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  16. ^ a b c d INSEE. "Tableau Économique de Mayotte 2010" (PDF) (in French). p. 21. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  17. ^ INSEE. "Populations légales des provinces de Nouvelle-Calédonie en 2019" (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  18. ^ ISEE. "Tableaux de l'Economie Calédonienne 2016" (in French). p. 31. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  19. ^ INSEE, Government of France. "Populations légales 2017 des départements et collectivités d'outre-mer" (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  20. ^ INSEE. "2008, An 1 de la collectivitéde Saint-Barthélemy" (PDF) (in French). p. 7. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  21. ^ INSEE, Government of France. "Populations légales 2018 des départements et collectivités d'outre-mer" (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  22. ^ INSEE. "2008, An 1 de la collectivitéde Saint-Martin" (PDF) (in French). p. 6. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  23. ^ INSEE, Government of France. "Populations légales 2016 des départements et collectivités d'outre-mer" (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  24. ^ INSEE. "Populations légales des circonscriptions des îles Wallis et Futuna en 2018" (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  25. ^ Ministry of Overseas France. "L'île de Clipperton" (in French). Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i Délégation générale à l'outre-mer. "Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises : Données géographiques et humaines" (PDF) (in French). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert Aldrich and John Connell, France's Overseas Frontier, Cambridge University Press, 1992
  • Frédéric Monera, L'idée de République et la jurisprudence du Conseil constitutionnel - Paris: L.G.D.J., 2004 [11] [12];

External links[edit]