Historic move as Macron offers Corsica autonomy 'without disengagement from the state'

Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with the President of the Corsican Assembly Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis before addressing a session of the Corsican Assembly in Ajaccio.
Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with the President of the Corsican Assembly Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis before addressing a session of the Corsican Assembly in Ajaccio. Copyright PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / POOL / AFP
By Gael Camba
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In a speech to the Corsican Regional Assembly, Emmanuel Macron proposed a constitutional text to build Corsican autonomy within the French State.


Corsica held its breath this morning as Emmanuel Macron addressed the Regional Assembly in Ajaccio. 

France's President proposed a constitutional text to Corsica's elected representatives to build autonomy for the island "without any disengagement from the state".

"It will not be autonomy against the State, nor autonomy without the State, but autonomy for Corsica and within the republic," he explained. 

This unique proposal comes at the end of several months of discussions between the government and local political leaders. 

It culminated on Wednesday in a dinner at the Ajaccio prefecture, where everyone put their last cards on the table.

Discussions began after an outbreak of violence on the island in 2022. 

The death of pro-independence activist Yvan Colonna, attacked in Arles prison where he was serving a life sentence for the 1998 assassination of Corsican prefect Claude Erignac in Ajaccio, sparked off virulent demonstrations.

Demonstrators with a Corsican flag in Ajaccio on 3 April 2022, after a rally in tribute to pro-independence activist Yvan Colonna, who was fatally attacked in prison.PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

"Corsica is rooted in France and in the Republic", declared Macron.

He promised "a constitutional and organic text to be submitted for approval within six months" to Corsica's elected representatives, which would give them "the possibility of defining standards on different topics or transfer of powers" under the control of the Council of State and the Constitutional Council.

The French President spoke of Corsica's inclusion in the constitution and of the specific characteristics of the island community. He also called for better teaching of the Corsican language, proposing the creation of a "public education service to promote bilingualism".

Nationalists demand their own legislative power

The nationalists, who control the Corsican Assembly, are calling for their own legislative power, Corsican residency status, the co-official status of the Corsican language and the inclusion of the notion of the Corsican people in the Constitution.

The island's right-wing, on the other hand, says it is only in favour of "adapting" French laws to Corsica's specific characteristics.

The members of the Corsican Assembly stand and applaud at the end of Emmanuel Macron's speech during a session as part of his three-day visit to the island.PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / POOL / AFP

The President had set numerous red lines, starting with the refusal to have two categories of citizens in the French Republic, which rules out resident status and co-official status for the Corsican language.

Before proposing autonomy, Macron took stock of the state's performance in Corsica: "The government has done its part and together we have done a lot and moved forward with a simple and concrete objective: to make life better for Corsicans."

'This strength of being Corsican and French'

The President highlighted the resources committed to the fight against delinquency and organised crime, and the progress made in health. 

He pointed to the €171 million allocated for Ajaccio Hospital, besides the €500 million injection in the environment and infrastructure under the Transformation and Investment Plan for Corsica.

"The new institutional stage that we want to launch must enable Corsica to preserve its soul and identity while remaining within the bounds of the Republic", said France's leader. 

"This is the choice that our young people deserve so that future generations can combine the richness and strength of being Corsican and French. Corsican because they are French. French because they are Corsican. European and Mediterranean, all at the same time", he concluded thunderous applause of Corsican elected representatives.

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