French President Emmanuel Macron addresses the Corsican Assembly during a session as part of Macron’s three days visit in the southern French island of Corsica on September 28, 2023 in Ajaccio. (Photo by Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / POOL / AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday proposed to give a form of autonomy to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, a region that often chafes at rule from Paris.
“We should have the courage to establish a form of autonomy for Corsica within France,” Macron told the island’s parliament in Ajaccio, which is currently controlled by nationalists.
“We would all be failing if we left things as they are,” he added.
Corsica shot to the top of the French political agenda last year when widespread violence broke out over the killing in a mainland prison of Yvan Colonna.
The independence fighter — jailed for life over the 1998 murder of the region’s prefect Claude Erignac — was stabbed to death by another inmate.
Colona’s killing triggered “unbelievable violence that brought Corsica to the brink of widespread conflict”, the island’s executive Gilles Simeoni told the president.
Corsicans have long wanted more say on their own affairs, as well as official status for their language and protection from outsiders buying up land — two thorny requests that Paris is reluctant to grant.
“Corsica must … become the autonomous territory it ought to be,” regional parliament speaker Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis told Macron ahead of his speech.
The island’s young people especially “feel hugely dispossessed”, she added.
Macron vowed to introduce legislation that would “fully anchor Corsica in the French republic, and recognise the uniqueness of its Mediterranean island nature and its relationship with the world”.
He set a deadline of six months for the island’s politicians to reach agreement with Paris on a new law that would change the French constitution to amend Corsica’s status.
“There are no red lines, just the ideals of the republic,” Macron added.