Macron is to make his first visit Corsica on Tuesday as French president amid demands for greater autonomy for the Mediterranean island by nationalists who are in an unprecedented position of political strength.
کد خبر: ۷۷۱۷۷۹
تاریخ انتشار: ۱۷ بهمن ۱۳۹۶ - ۱۰:۰۷ 06 February 2018

Macron is to make his first visit Corsica on Tuesday as French president amid demands for greater autonomy for the Mediterranean island by nationalists who are in an unprecedented position of political strength.

Macron will set out his “vision of Corsica” in a speech, which comes after electoral gains by the nationalist parties and a street demonstration at the weekend when thousands called on him to properly address the growing demands for more freedoms from Paris.

The question of what status should be granted Corsica – an island of 330,000 people that lies closer to Italy than mainland France – has long vexed Paris but has been brushed under the carpet by successive French presidents.

The 40-year Corsican “national liberation” campaign of bombing and violence targeting French infrastructure, ended in 2014 when armed separatists announced an “end to military operations”. But since then, Corsican nationalists seeking greater autonomy from the French state have had their best-ever performance in elections.

The Pè a Corsica (For Corsica) alliance has two-thirds of the seats in the regional assembly.

The nationalist movement is opposed to France’s cultural and political dominance over the island, which it annexed in 1768. Despite Corsica’s reputation as an upmarket tourist destination, the birthplace of Napoleon is one of the poorest regions in France, with an ageing population.

With the international spotlight focusing more on regional autonomy issues after the Catalan independence crisis, there is also pressure on Paris to engage and discuss possible forms of loosening its centralised grip. The Corsican question is different to the Cataloan one; Corsica is much poorer and more dependent on the French state than Catalonia is on Madrid.

Corsican nationalists are, in general, not calling for full independence at this point, but are instead pushing for talks with Macron on constitutional changes that gave the island a special status with “real autonomy”. Opinion polls show that most Corsicans, a high percentage of whom are employed in the public sector, want to remain in France.

The nationalists’ demands include an amnesty for Corsicans jailed, or remain in hiding, for pro-independence violence; the Corsican language to have official status alongside French; and restrictions on people from other parts of France buying property on an island where outsiders’ second homes have placed pressure on poorer local communities.

The six members of Macron’s party, La République En Marche, in the Corsican assembly recently joined the nationalist majority in approving a text calling on the president to “open a dialogue without taboos”.

Macron previously said he was willing to talk but appeared to backtrack on any possibility of changing the constitution, effectively rejecting greater autonomy for Corsica. But he has not yet fully set out his position.

Gilles Simeoni, the regional council chief, has warned that Paris was playing with fire by rejecting the nationalists’ demands, alluding to the independence movement’s violent past.

On Monday, Jean-Guy Talamoni, the head of the Corsican assembly, warnedagainst an “incomprehensible and dangerous denial” by Paris of the Corsican electorate’s support for nationalists. He said election results showed voters clearly saw Corsica as “a nation, and not simply an administrative entity”.

Significantly, Macron will attend a commemoration for Claude Erignac, the French prefect of the island, who was shot dead by separatists while on his way to a concert in Ajaccio in 1998.

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