What concessions do Corsica’s buoyed nationalists want from France?

What concessions do Corsica’s buoyed nationalists want from France?
By Christophe GarachChris Harris
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Nationalists in Corsica have been boosted by winning regional elections in December. But what do they want from French President Emmanuel Macron?


Corsica’s relationship with mainland France has a long and difficult history.

Separatists led a 40-year militant campaign — which included blowing up police stations and attacking mainlanders — before putting down arms four years ago.

Now, after winning regional elections in December, nationalists are sniffing concessions from French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited the Mediterranean island on Tuesday, February 6.

Here we take a look at their main demands.

More autonomy

While independence for Corsica is off the agenda — in the short-to-medium term at least — the nationalists are wanting more openness from Macron.

If that doesn’t materialise there could be a return to violence, according to Gilles Simeoni, president of Corsica’s executive council.

One of their chief requests is more autonomy and a new status that is modelled on the freedoms granted to other French overseas territories.

But such recognition would require changes to France’s constitution, something Macron has reportedly ruled out.

However he did say during his presidential election campaign he was open to dialogue on the matter.

The creation of a new status for Corsica would strengthen the powers of local authorities in fiscal, land and language matters.

Official recognition for the Corsican language

France’s constitutional council has — since 1991 — considered the idea of “Corsican people” as illegal in the name of the indivisibility of the Republic.

Despite this judgment, the debate around the Corsican language has never stopped.

The nationalists claim their language should be official across all of the island, not to replace French, but to co-exist with it.

Jacqueline Gourault, the government’s minister with responsibility for Corsica, recently said the language of the French Republic was French and that coexistence was not possible.

Give amnesty to ‘political prisoners’

This is another sensitive issue.

Nationalists have for a long time demanded an amnesty for Corsicans detained for terrorists activities.

They consider them ‘political prisoners’, notably Yvan Colonna, who was given a life sentence for the assassination in 1998 of official Claude Erignac.

Even if they don’t get detainees' liberation — not at all on the agenda — nationalists would want at the very least their transfer to prisons in Corsica.


On this point the French government hasn’t totally shut the door and has promised discussions on a case-by-case basis.

A special status for Corsican residents

Property is a major problem in Corsica: more than 35% of housing are second homes and owned by people who do not live on the island.

Nationalists therefore want to create a special status for Corsican residents and impose a probationary period on anyone wanting to buy a property on the island.

In 2014 a proposal along these lines sparked controversy. It proposed that to become a landlord a non-resident would have had to wait five years, a measure deemed contrary to the right of ownership. 

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