Corsican Statute of Autonomy as demanded by island’s institutions ruled out by Macron

“If Corsicans’ specificity is to be an enemy of the Republic, it is a mistake,” French president says · Macron offers a type of constitutional recognition for Corsica that the island’s government and Assembly had specifically rejected

Emmanuel Macron, in a stock photo.
Emmanuel Macron, in a stock photo. Author: Pablo Tupin-Noriega
French president Emmanuel Macron has ruled out in all but name a Corsican Statute of Autonomy with law-making powers, and has rejected co-official status for the Corsican language. The decision is a blow to demands by the Corsican government and Assembly, which are controlled by the Pè a Corsica alliance that, in December, won the Corsican election with an absolute majority of votes and seats under a pro-autonomy manifesto. “If the Corsicans’ specificity is to be an enemy of the Republic, it is a mistake, and I can not accept it,” Macron has said. The president has in return offered to negotiate and include a specific recognition of Corsica in the French Constitution. Still, Macron announced he is ready to do so via an article that the island’s institutions had already rejected.

The French president has pronounced, 7 February, a long-awaited speech in the Corsican city of Bastia, as it had been announced that he would reveal his vision for the immediate future of Corsica. Prospects from the point of view of Corsican nationalists were not very promising after meetings that the Corsican head of government Gilles Simeoni and president of the Corsican Assembly Jean-Guy Talamoni had held in Paris with French prime minister Édouard Philippe and Senate president Gérard Larcher.

The French president has announced that powers to implement “new local taxes” could be given to the island, and has further said that he is “ready” to negotiate and write down a mention of Corsica in article 72 of the French Constitution “in view of its geography [and] specificities”. This is exactly what the Corsican pro-autonomy camp did not want: Friday 2, the Corsican Assembly and government passed a resolution in which they explicitly asked Macron to negotiate on autonomy and not to use article 72 but article 74, in the hope that the devolution of law-making powers could be accepted through it —which, at least at this moment, is not the case with article 72.

Interestingly, the resolution not only got votes for from Simeoni’s and Talamoni’s alliance, but also from Andà per Dumane, a pro-Macron party led by Jean-Luc Orsucci.

Going back to the speech, Macron has repeatedly insisted on the inextricable unity of Corsica with France, and has said that what the island need is to “overcome everyday problems” to “improve citizens’ daily life”.

Such an improvement, according to Macron, is in no way linked to meeting any of the main demands that the Corsican pro-autonomy majority has proposed. First of all, passing a Statute of Autonomy with law-making powers that could be inspired —Simeoni and Talamoni recently suggested— in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands or Sardinia. Second, declaring Corsican a co-official language on the island —Macron has again said he stands up for “bilingualism” but has insisted the only official language should be French. Third, creating of a resident’s statute —which Macron has said would be “against our Constitution and our European law”— that could protect islanders from real estate speculation and rising prices. And fourth, enacting an amnesty of political prisoners, which the French president does not even want to hear about.

Anger of Corsican leaders

Having met the day before with French president, Simeoni and Talamoni not even accepted Macron’s invitation to have lunch together before the discourse. Macron belittled their anger: “What matters to me is Corsica and Corsicans. The rest, I am not interested.”

Later in the evening, Talamoni reacted by saying that “telling Corsicans that their vote has finally not had any incidence on the political reality is a form of humiliation”.

The two Corsican leaders argue the result of the December 2017 Corsican election —56% of the votes for Pè a Corsica, with 41 seats won out of a total 63— is a clear endorsement for the demand of the Statute of Autonomy, which was included in the alliance’s election manifesto.

Last weekend, thousands demonstrated in Ajaccio demanding the French government to open a dialogue on autonomy, under the slogan “Democracy and respect for the Corsican people”.