French police have ended a blockade of a port in Corsica as efforts continue to resolve an industrial dispute which has left the island cut off. In an early morning operation riot police used armoured vehicles to remove lorries and containers put in place by workers to block the ferry terminal in Ajaccio.
Around the same time officers on the mainland were opening two oil terminal ports in Marseille which were also blockaded. The dispute over plans to privatise the state ferry company SNCM has stoked tensions between nationalist Corsicans and the French authorities. Paris’s top official on the island has called calm for after several days of sometimes violent protest.
Thousands of tourists have been stranded by the strike which also hit Corsica’s airports. It is still not clear when they will be able to leave. The release of four activists who were arrested over the hijacking of a ferry as part of the protests may ease tensions. But talks between the government and union on selling off the debt-ridden ferry operator remain deadlocked.
Workers fear it will lead to job losses. The government has scaled back its privatisation plans, promising to leave 30 percent of the company in the hands of the state and workers. Meanwhile Paris is waiting for EU approval of its rescue plan.