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The Pheasants Island, the mini kingdom of the viceroys of Spain and France
The Island of Pheasants, with an area of ​​3,000 square meters, is located 50 meters from the shores of Hendaye and Irun. ZARATEMAN

It is a green tuft that can be seen from the International Bridge linking France and Spain. In the middle of the Bidassoa river of the Basque Country which serves as a natural border before flowing into the Bay of Biscay, emerge the Island Pheasants. Located about fifty meters from each shore, this plot of land of three thousand square meters is very easily observable.

But apart from leafy trees, well mown grass and a stone stele, there is not much to see or do. In his time, Victor Hugo was the first disappointment of his visit. "There are no pheasants in Pheasant Island, which is only a green plateau way. A cow and three ducks represent pheasants; hired consorts probably to do this role to the satisfaction of passersby », warned the writer by retracing his journey from Bayonne to Saint-SÃ © bastien.

"It's anachronistic, we're would believe in â € œSecret of Historyâ € with Stà © phane Bernâ € Christophe Merit, Viceroy of France

This land has yet a particularity: it is the smallest condominium in the world. Since the Treaty of Bayonne in 1856, France and Spain exercise joint sovereignty over this territory. A kind of alternate guard for six months of the year, also unique in the world. Since the 1st August, it is up to the tricolor administration to manage it. More precisely to the French viceroy of the Island of Pheasants.

Because no, France is not quite finished with royalty. Christophe Merit, 47, is the last official representative. This naval member is today deputy director, delegated to the sea and the coast of the Pyrenees-Atlantiques. An administrative post that is a priori ordinary but contains  € œA little pie in its packagingâ €, as the main interest says. It is the function of viceroy, mentioned in full in the job description published in the Official Journal of the French Republic of July 20th, 2017. "It's anachronistic, declares with a smile the delegate, who ensures not to boast of this title in everyday life. It's like being in â € œSecret of historyâ € with Stà © phane Bern. AT"

The title made her granddaughter dream

At the beginning, he was surprised by the welcome of the inhabitants of Hendaye (Pyrenees-Atlantiques). "Some were pretty deceiving, says Christophe Merit. They expect a lot from the viceroy, especially that he defends them against the interests of Spain. For them, the Viceroy is an element of stability and they make this system a little feudal. AT" The title especially made her granddaughter dream. "Does that mean I'll be vice princess? AT" she had asked him naively.

In reality, the administrative role of the naval commander of the region has almost nothing of a chivalric pope. "Viceroys have administrative functions along the entire length of the navigable river and the estuary, Jean-Paul Pancracio, professor emeritus specializing in the law of the sea and international law. They are in charge of the management of the anchorages, which concerns some 500 vessels, of pleasure for the most part. AT"

NÃ © Nevertheless, "The administrative functions are quite extraordinary because the viceroy has legislative and executive power, explains Boris Solin, Commander of the Navy (Comar) in Bayonne from 2011 to 2013, and as such Viceroy of the Island during the period. It issues regulations in the Bidassoa area, including standards for fishing. And at the same time, he has the means to restore order. AT" It is, for example, the viceroys who have drafted the ordinance prohibiting the access of the island to the public.

In armored car

Finally, if this tradition of more than one hundred and sixty-three years survives in the French Basque Country, it is mainly by imitation of the Spanish part. "We call ourselves Viceroy by mirror effect to our counterpart Saint-Sà © bastien who himself is the viceroy of his king, Amuse Boris Solin. In France, you are viceroy of a president. AT" The risks are not the same either since Isidoro Junguito, commander of the navy in Saint-Sà © bastien and Spanish viceroy of the Island of Pheasants, moves in armored car. In a region where the pressure independant is strong, all representative of the power madrilène is quite frowned upon. The subject is therefore taken more seriously.

In 2012, it was "For the panache" that Boris Solin wished to organize an official ceremonial during the award. Traditionally, it is done simply by mail exchange. Â € œThis was a bit complicated because the 1st February, in the Basque Country, it is neither hot nor beautiful, joking he. About fifty people are present to participate in the tributes paid to the sailors of the two states and attend the laying of a wreath at the foot of the stele.

Six months later, the naval command of Saint-SÃ © bastien does not resent the experience. It lacks means and Zodiac to bring the personalities on the island. He then calls Bayonne for help, but at this time of year, everyone is on vacation. This is the case of Christophe Merit. 1st August, the day of the handover, the current French viceroy is on vacation. On the side of Saint-SÃ © bastien, this year again, we will be satisfied with an e-mail.

Robin Richardot

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