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Macron’s Visit to Corsica Fails To Ease Nationalist Sentiments

French president Emmanuel Macron visited Corsica for the first time in his legislation period on Tuesday. The visit was intended to appease nationalist sentiments on the island that have increased since their success in recent regional elections.

Credits: NewIndianExpress/AP

Credits: NewIndianExpress/AP

The demands of the Pè a Corsica (For Corsica) alliance, which currently holds two-thirds of seats in the regional assembly, focus mainly on constitutional changes, such as an official status of the Corsican language. Additionally, they called for amnesty for jailed Corsican pro-independence fighters, as well as restrictions on French mainlanders buying property on the island. In advance of his visit, Macron was very clear that while he is willing to add a specific mention of Corsica in the French Constitution, he would not grant any other demands, stating that “Corsica is at the heart of the (French) Republic.”

Corsica’s struggle for independence is not a new phenomenon. For 40 years, separatists waged a militant campaign that included blowing up governmental institutions and assassinating the previous Corsican prefect Claude Erignac in 1998. While the movement agreed to lay down its arms in 2014, the current success of the nationalist alliance shows that their demands did not lose in power.

Historically, the birthplace of Napoleon was ceded to the French by Italy in the 18th century and has since been part of the Republic, despite a brief occupation by German and Italian forces in 1940. However, Corsica’s historical and geographical connection to Italy had a significant impact on the island, which is resembled in the proximity of its culture and language.

Credits: BBC

Credits: BBC

Yet, Corsica is not striving for an absolute independence due to its economic instability. The island of 330,000 people is one of the poorest regions in France. This fact differentiates the Catalonian situation from the Corsican problematic as the island is significantly more dependent on France than Catalonia on Madrid.

Thus, the visit was expected to serve as a mediation of demands on both sides, as previous presidents had largely disregarded the Corsican question. However, Macron’s rejection of most demands didn’t only result in various demonstrations of the Corsican society, but also prompted two locally elected leaders to boycott a working lunch with the president on Wednesday. Accordingly, one of these leaders, Gilles Simeoni, found clear words for the visit, describing it as a “missed opportunity” to forge a new relationship with the island.