Youths start hunger strike for Corsican language, resident status

Ghjuventù Indipendentista members to keep protest until French government minister meets them · Strikers wants French institutions to implement decisions made by the Corsican Assembly in 2013 · Last word left to Paris, as the Corsican Assembly does not have law-making powers

Some 15 Corsican youths are on indefinite hunger strike since Wednesday 22th to demand the French government the implementation of several decisions made by the Corsican Assembly in 2013. In particular, the strikers -members of Ghjuventù Indipendentista group- want Paris to grant co-official status for the Corsican language alongside French, the creation of a resident status, and the application of a different fiscal regime on the island.

The strikers are holding their protest in the Corti Castle -the historical capital of the 18th century independent Corsican republic- and have vowed not to leave until "a French minister competent for that question" meets them and accepts their requests, "which are nothing but the overwhelming desire of a majority of islanders, as votes in the sovereign Assembly of Corsica witness."

Ghjuventù Indipendentista members refer to two May and September 2013 votes that took place in the Corsican Assembly. A large majority of the Corsican AMs then demanded France to pass legislative changes in order to grant Corsican co-official status, to approve a resident status protecting Corsicans from the rise in housing prices because of summer houses built on the island, and to create an own tax system for Corsica.

But the French government reacted to those demands by saying that they could not be applied because they are unconstitutional. Then-French Interior Minister Manuel Valls argued co-official status for the Corsican language is "unconceivable." The decisions of the Corsican Assembly have thus never been implented.

Besides, the Gjhuventù Indipendentista strikers are also calling for an amnesty for Corsican political prisoners.

An Assembly with no legislative powers

The Corsican Assembly has no legislative powers. Decisions can be discussed and passed, but they always need a vote by the French National Assembly in order to be enforced. This includes granting Corsican co-official status or creating a resident status for islanders. Both issues are extremely sensitive to French nationalism, as they are perceived as the first step to the break-up of French national sovereignty.

Support from Corsican parties and associations

The hunger strikers are receiving support from the Party of the Corsican Nation (PNC, pro-autonomy) and from Corsica Libera (pro-independence). The PNC says that "it is high time, after decades of struggle [...], that our aspirations are realized." Corsica Libera wants the Corsican Assembly to form a delegation of APs in support of the young strikers.

The strikers are also receiving support from Corsican associations, such as the Associu di i Parenti Corsi, which denounces "the State's refusal to launch a process of political solution" as the solely reason for the current situation. Meanwhile, the University of Corsica has posted on its Facebook account a picture of the strikers tagged with the label #sustegnu ("support", in Corsican).

Ghjuventù Indipendentista has launched an international petition in support of their demands, which can be signed online.