In France, a pays is an area whose inhabitants share common geographical, economic, cultural, or social interests, who have a right to enter into communal planning contracts under a law known as the Loi Pasqua or LOADT, which took effect on February 4, 1995. It was augmented on June 25, 1999, by the Loi Voynet or LOADDT. The LOADDT enables the citizens of a community to form a legally recognized pays after deciding to do so by mutual consent; its aim is to help bring the inhabitants of urban and neighboring rural districts into dialogue and agreement. The Council of Development in each pays assembles together the elected officials and the economic, social, and cultural actors, and their associates, into a deliberative forum to discuss the development policies which should be followed by the community. While the Council can give advice, submit proposals, and monitor development projects, it does not have the authority to make official decisions. The Charter of the Pays makes it possible to fix the stakes and the objectives of the community. Few structures are recognized as pays Voynet, meaning nationwide, because the recognition criteria are sometimes far from what the pays are. Then again, several pays are recognized by the Commission Régionale d'aménagement et de développement du Territoire.
In France, the contract of the Pays can be signed among the members of the pays, or between the pays and its surrounding area, the department, the region, or with the national state when the stakes are well-identified. In this context, the French term pays is not used in the modern sense of "country" but preserves the original meaning of the Latin word from which it was derived, pagus, which designated the territory controlled by a medievalcount. The majority of pays are roughly coextensive with the old counties. Today Pays de France still refers to a tiny area in northwest Ile-de-France, hence city names such as Roissy-en-France or Tremblay-en-France. Although this word is frequently translated into English as country, its usage can mean a region or territory of a nation considered from the point of view of a certain identity or community of interest of its inhabitants. It is held to be the geographical basis of the state. The word is also used less precisely as an alternative for état.