Autonomy may be on the way for Corsica


During a recent visit to Corsica, French President Emanuel Macron envisioned autonomy for this French island in the Mediterranean Sea.

This will again be a process of many years of negotiations. Only in six months will the first proposals on the essence of the autonomy be discussed. This could include, among other things, greater say for Corsica’s regional parliament and regional government, the promotion of the Corsican language and culture by means of tax money and the symbolic recognition of Corsica’s distinctiveness in the constitution.

Macron did emphasize that the process towards autonomy will take place through and with the state and that independence (unlike for example in Great Britain with the case of Scotland) is not an option at all.

The Corsicans have been fighting for independence or at least autonomy from France for generations and the struggle has been constantly suppressed by the French authorities. However, the two sides have now moved closer to each other after both sides realized that a breakthrough can only be achieved through concessions and negotiation: the Corsicans realize that independence by means of violence is not feasible; the French state realizes that the Corsican quest for freedom can never be extinguished by means of state violence.

The process of accommodation was, strangely enough, aided by the death of a Corsican radical nationalist, Ivan Colonna, last year. Colonna served a life sentence in a French prison for the murder of a French woman prefect (the highest administrative officer of a district). Colonna was severely strangled by a fellow prisoner, an Islamic immigrant from West Africa, and later succumbed to it. This caused great consternation among the Corsicans, even among those who condemned Colonna’s act. France was held indirectly responsible for his death, because Colonna was not imprisoned in Corsica, but on the continent and was not safe there.

The French government realized how explosive the situation was and that the Corsican question had to be resolved. After all, it is one of the last ethnic minorities in Europe that does not yet have any significant form of self-government. South Tyrol, Scotland, Basque Country, Catalonia, Northern Ireland, to name but a few, have been accommodated in one way or another for decades and enjoy advanced forms of self-government.

France is actually a strongly centrally organized country and in its modern history, especially since the French Revolution, has created a united French people from several strong regional identities and languages. However, the Corsicans, also due to their position as an island, have always opposed it and perceived the French as conquerors and occupiers. Among the Corsicans, the whole spectrum of sentiments on the degree of independence is represented: from the militant independence fighters of the Front de la Liberation National de Corse (FNLC) to the more moderate advocates of limited autonomy and even those who the status quo elected.

However, there are few native Corsicans who see themselves only as French and do not want any form of self-determination for the island. On the other hand, the majority of French are opposed to the granting of autonomy to Corsica, or to any other region, because of the fear that it would damage national cohesion and territorial integrity. As one can see in Spain and Britain, the granting of autonomy usually fuels demands for more. Already in the 1980s, the French state with the creations of regions (regions), which however have very limited rights, watered down the centralism slightly.