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An overseas department ( or DOM) is a department of France that is outside metropolitan France. They have the same political status as metropolitan departments.

France's earliest, short-lived attempt at setting up Overseas départements was after Napoleon's conquest of the Republic of Venicemarker in 1797, when the hitherto Venetian Ionian islandsmarker 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 1946 Constitution of the Fourth Republic, the French colonies of Algeriamarker in North Africa (independent since 1962), Guadeloupemarker and Martiniquemarker in the Caribbeanmarker, French Guianamarker in South America, and Réunionmarker in the Indian Oceanmarker were defined as overseas departments. As integral parts of Francemarker and the European Union, they are represented in the National Assembly, Senatemarker and Economic and Social Council, elect a Member of the European Parliamentmarker (MEP), and also use the euro as their currency.

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 which occurred in 2003, these regions are now to be called overseas regions; indeed the new wording of the Constitution gave no precedence to the phrase overseas department or overseas region, though the latter is still virtually unused by the French media.

The overseas collectivity Saint Pierre and Miquelonmarker was an overseas department from 1976 to 1985.

Following a yes vote in a referendum held on 29 March 2009, the overseas collectivity Mayottemarker will become an overseas department in 2011.


  1. Israel in Search of a War: The Sinai Campaign, 1955-1956, page 39, Moti Golani, Avi Shlaim, Sussex Academic Press 1998

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