Disneyland Paris and the French authorities will be celebrating 30th anniversary of the Main Agreement of 1987 in March. Signing the document at the Hôtel Matignon gave approval for the creation and operation of a Disney destination planned for France, specifically Marne-la-Vallée – in close proximity to Paris. This was the so-called birth certificate of what would soon become the number one tourist destination in Europe.
One needs to go back to the 1980s to have any real understanding of this public-private partnership. Created under the Development and Town Planning Master Plan 15 years earlier, Marne-la-Vallée was struggling to be an attractive economic draw. It had a population of just 150,000 (compared to 320,000 in 2013). In actual fact, the Ile-de-France was strongly polarised in favour of the western area of the Ile-de-France and the La Défense business district. It was against this backdrop that the French Government and local authorities were hoping to reset the balance of regional economic activity by accelerating development to the east of Paris. The Walt Disney Company also wanted to develop – and locate theme parks in Europe.
The ambitions of The Walt Disney Company and the French authorities became one. And so it was that the French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company Michael Eisner, the Conseil Régional d’Île-de-France, the Conseil Général de Seine-et-Marne, the RATP (Parisian transport operator) and EPA Marne (local Planning and Development Authority) signed the Main Agreement on 24 March 1987. This marked the beginning of a unique and unprecedented adventure for France and a private company.
“In 1985, after looking at vacation models in Europe, the Disney Group narrowed its choice down to a number of towns in France and Spain. The case put forward by Marne-la-Vallée stood out because of its proximity to Paris and the desire of the French authorities to develop access in particular and tourism in general. It took fifteen months to reach the final Main Agreement, which was signed in March1987.” — Director, Business Development for Disney International during the negotiations.
The Main Agreement of 1987 defined the roles of all stakeholders in the development of the area and the new town of Marne-la-Vallée over a period of 30 years*. The Walt Disney Company and the Euro Disney Group took charge of the development of 2,230 hectares of land, which had to be in partnership with local communities and EPA Marne and EPA France. The Main Agreement specifically allowed for the construction of a theme park, several hotels and a golf course. The public authorities undertook to develop the infrastructure for access to the site, extending the RER A railway line and the A4 motorway and building an SNCF train station (scheduled for 1991).
Work began at the Disneyland Paris construction site in 1988 – Europe’s biggest ever after the Channel Tunnel connecting France and the United Kingdom.
*The Main Agreement of 1987 allowed for development over the next 30 years and was due to end in 2017. An amendment was signed on 14 September 2010, extending the Main Agreement until 2030.