Will there ever be independence for Corsica?

Landscape in Corsica with stone tower, town and seahore

Corsican landscape, Credit: Lars Nissen, Pixabay, creative commons zero

Corsican Regional Assembly votes on revised autonomy proposals.

Discussions in the Corsican assembly in Ajaccio on Wednesday 27 March examined proposals for the model of regional autonomy desired in Corsica.

Earlier this month, an agreement on Corsica’s status as an autonomous region was reached in Paris, following two years of negotiations and five hours of direct talks between Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and eight Corsican elected representatives.

The positive outcome of these discussions has fostered cautious optimism among the island’s 340,000 inhabitants, who have been under the leadership of Corsican nationalists since 2015.

The text discussed in the Corsican assembly in Ajaccio on Wednesday 27 outlines the recognition of “a status of autonomy for Corsica within the Republic that acknowledges its unique interests tied to its Mediterranean insularity and its historical, linguistic, and cultural heritage deeply rooted in its land.”

Awaiting the outcome with baited breath

In earlier developments, the assembly awaited President Emmanuel Macron’s speech in September 2023 with baited breath.

The President of France presented a constitutional draft to Corsica’s elected representatives, envisioning autonomy for the island “without severing ties with the state”.

“It’s not about autonomy against the State, nor autonomy without the State, but rather autonomy for Corsica within the republic,” he elucidated.

It thus provides for the recognition of autonomy for the island, while remaining within the Fifth Republic.

“Corsica is deeply rooted in France and in the Republic,” asserted Macron, promising to present “a constitutional and organic text for approval within six months” to Corsica’s elected representatives. This text would grant them “the ability to define standards on various subjects or to transfer powers” under the supervision of the Council of State and the Constitutional Council.

Corsica would, he assured, be inscribed in the constitution. The French president also promised to create a public education to promote bilingualism, responding to public dissatisfaction with teaching and the preservation of the language.

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

When Yvan Colonna was killed in Arles prison while serving a life sentence for the 1998 assassination of Corsican prefect Claude Erignac in Ajaccio, violent demonstrations erupted.

According to Darmanin, President of the Executive Council of Corsica, Gilles Simeoni, is tasked with garnering broad consensus within the Assembly, extending beyond Corsican autonomist and nationalist factions.

This would then prompt the President of the Republic to invite the island’s elected representatives to engage in “more detailed constitutional discussions.”

The agreement to enshrine Corsica’s independent status in the constitution represents a significant political step forward. Now, the challenge will be to persuade members of parliament to support both the revision and the organic law.

Fears for the unity of the Republic

Many object to the constitutional recognition of a unique historical, linguistic and cultural community, fearing that it would pave the way for demands from other communities that would undermine the integrity of the Republic.

Corsica has been truly independent for only thirteen years of its existence, from 1755 to 1769.

President Macron outlined several non-negotiable principles, including rejecting the idea of two classes of citizens within the French Republic, thus ruling out residency status and official recognition of the Corsican language.

The French president concluded his speech with an emotive address delivered to tumultuous applause from the elected representatives of the Corsican Assembly:

“This is the choice our youth deserve, so that future generations can embrace the richness and strength of being both Corsican and French, intertwining their identities as Corsican because they are French, and French because they are Corsican. They are both European and Mediterranean, all at once.”

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Written by

Annette Christmas

Annie Christmas loves language and communication. A long-time resident of Mallorca, she enjoys an outdoor life of cycling, horse riding and mountain walking, as well as the wealth of concerts and cultural events on the island. She also plays fiddle in a traditional Mallorcan dance troupe.