Macron recognizes the particularity of the island of Corsica, but rejects nationalist pretensions
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Alb’Oru cultural center in Bastia, Corsica, on February 7, 2018
The French president Emmanuel Macron was shown on Wednesday in Corsica willing to recognize its particularities, but firmly rejected other claims of the nationalists in power on the Mediterranean island.
In a long-awaited speech in Bastia, the French head of state declared himself “in favor of Corsica being mentioned in the French Constitution”, one of the main demands of the alliance between autonomists and independentists.
It would be “a way to recognize your identity and anchor it in the Republic.”
This demand provokes a strong controversy in France, a very centralist country that defends the “indivisible” character of the Republic.
But the president remained inflexible in the face of other nationalist demands, such as the co-officiality of the Corsican language and the application of a statute of residence on the island.
This last proposition “is not the good answer” against real estate speculation on this very tourist island, as the nationalists consider it, said Macron.
“Today, when prices rise and land is sold, there are few non-Corsican people who benefit,” said the head of state, who pledged to “favor the construction of housing” and “simplify urban planning rules.”
Regarding the Corsican language, Macron stressed that “in the Republic there is an official language, French”, although bilingualism is “fully recognized and accepted”.
The Corsican leaders do not ask for the independence of the island but a “true statute of autonomy”.
In addition to the co-officiality of the language, they ask for a special fiscal and social statute, the approach and the amnesty of Corsican prisoners who call themselves “politicians” and detained in mainland France.
– Deception –
The two Corsican leaders denounced a speech “far behind expectations”.
As a symbol of the tension, several Corsican representatives criticized the absence during Macron’s speech of the Corsican flag, omnipresent on the island, alongside those of France and Europe.
“It was a wasted opportunity,” said the autonomist Gilles Simeoni, president of the territorial government.
His pro-independence ally Jean-Guy Talamoni, president of the Corsica Assembly, was “dismayed by the level of responses that were given.” “It’s a sad night for Corsica,” he deplored.
Previously the nationalist representatives had shown their disappointment by refusing to sit down at the table with the head of state for a “republican lunch” in Bastia.
They reproached the president “the very violent tone” of the speech in Ajaccio the previous day during the tribute to the prefect Claude Erignac, twenty years exactly after his murder by a pro-independence militant.
Macron discarded in that speech any amnesty for the prisoners, since they were condemned for terrorist crimes.
Corsica, an island of some 330,000 inhabitants, was a victim of violence for decades, with more than 4,500 attacks claimed in part by the Corsica National Liberation Front (FLNC). The violence culminated twenty years ago with the murder of Claude Erignac, the first prefect killed in France since the Second World War.
Corsican nationalism left behind in 2014 the underground and the attacks before winning at the polls, to obtain an absolute majority in the territorial elections in December.