FAfter more than 50 years of resistance, France wants to grant the Mediterranean island of Corsica extensive autonomy. President Emmanuel Macron invoked a “historic moment” on Thursday when he spoke in favor of a constitutional change in the regional parliament in Ajaccio. “Corsica needs more freedoms,” said the president.
So that the Corsicans can enact their own laws in the future and the Corsican language can be recognized as having equal rights with the French, the draft law on a constitutional amendment should be drawn up and submitted to parliament “within six months”. Autonomy should take place “not against and not without the French state,” said Macron. A separate constitutional article is needed to anchor the “singularity of the Mediterranean island” and its cultural, linguistic and historical unity in the French constitution.
“The status quo would mean collective failure,” warned Macron. This was a barely concealed threat to the right-wing majority in the Senate, which had previously expressed its rejection.
Corsican language threatened with extinction
Republicans fear a Corsican “separatism” that could be modeled on other areas with strong regional identities such as Brittany, Savoy, Catalonia and the Basque Country. There is a threat of France’s disintegration, said the leader of the Republican group, Bruno Retailleau. He said recognizing the Corsican language was a “red line”. According to the French ideal, all citizens should be equal, including in language. France therefore signed the EU Charter for the Protection of Regional and Minority Languages, but never ratified it. A constitutional change requires a three-fifths majority of both chambers of parliament. Macron’s minority government is therefore dependent on the votes of the civil right.
Macron spoke out in favor of increased promotion of the Corsican language in the island’s state schools. The goal must be bilingualism in everyday life. The Corsican language is threatened with extinction. According to recent surveys, of the 350,000 island residents, around 30,000 still speak the Corsican language.
In the future, it should be possible for the regional government to pass its own laws, for example to curb the housing shortage for locals. Real estate speculation on the holiday island means that most properties are no longer affordable for locals.
Macron specified that Corsica’s legislative powers would be “controlled” by the Constitutional Council and the Council of State in Paris. It is also important that the laws do not violate EU rules. He opposed basing the autonomy status on European models such as the Italian island of Sardinia. The French Pacific island of New Caledonia does not provide a template either. The aim is to develop a Corsican model of autonomy. Macron concluded his speech to great applause with the words “Long live Corsica!”, before saying the traditional “Long live the Republic, long live France.”
The President of the Corsican Executive Council, Gilles Simeoni, spoke of a “path of hope” that is now opening up for the Corsican people. Simeoni’s father Edmond was the founder of Corsican nationalism. Since the mid-1970s, attacks by the Corsican National Liberation Front have shaken the island. In 2014 the nationalists laid down their arms. In 2015 they won the regional elections for the first time. Simeoni further expanded his lead in 2021. Simeoni said on Thursday that he wanted autonomy for all Corsicans.
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