the inclusion of autonomy in the constitution divides the inhabitants

the inclusion of autonomy in the constitution divides the inhabitants

The elected representatives of the Corsican Assembly and the government have agreed to include the autonomy of the island in the Constitution. Housing, precariousness, medical desert, mafia… can this institutional innovation cure the ills of the Isle of Beauty?

At midday, the terraces of Place Saint-Nicolas, in Bastia (Haute-Corse), are filled for lunch; the ferry from Toulon docks; workers renovate the ground of the Old Port under a blazing sun which dries out the concrete and the people.

In the background, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church offers a bit of shade. A radio station broadcasts Vinti Minuti , the political program of Radio Corse. At the microphone, Don Joseph Luccioni, a young nationalist leader, shouts: “This autonomy project gives my generation the means to take back the reins to build the country of our dreams. »

A symbol of autonomist youth, he is, at 25 years old, the youngest elected member of the Corsican Assembly under the label Fa Populu Inseme (Bringing people together), the list of the president of the executive council, Gilles Simeoni. This son of Edmond Simeoni – father of Corsican nationalism whose political action remains tainted by the drama of Aléria in 1975 – considers, like 70% of island elected officials, that autonomy would mark the epilogue of a historic struggle.

For Wanda Mastor, associate professor of public law, a fundamental distinction is essential: “With autonomy, Corsica maintains republican unity but the Constitution recognizes its specificities. Independence would mean leaving the French Republic, but that is in no way what is at stake.” In detail, the contours of an autonomous Corsica remain to be defined and are not unanimous.

Behind his counter where customers lean on their elbows watching the FC Bastia match, Paulo, an inveterate islander, admits to feeling divided: “To recognize our people and our language, here, I sign, like everyone else in this bar! Huh guys? » Customers nod, pints clinking in approval.

According to a study by the local authority, in 2020, 39% of adults appeared to be active speakers of the Corsican language and nationalists are campaigning to make it official alongside French. A red line that the government refused to cross in the negotiations.

The first paragraph of the text on which the two parties agreed mentions “a historical, linguistic, cultural community having developed a singular link to its land”. Paulo shrugs his shoulders to indicate that this is a good start, before continuing: “On the economic level, everything gets complicated there. The Corsicans have heart, but the island does not have the shoulders to live without France. » And for good reason: it imports 96% of its food.

Vanina Le Bomin, elected autonomist (Avanzemu), summarizes the difficulties of her territory in a paradox: island laws decided by mainlanders. To support her point, she lists the examples of Sardinia – visible from the coast on a clear day – Sicily, the Balearic Islands, the Canaries, Madeira, the Faroe Islands and even Greenland. All these Mediterranean or Nordic islands, where the European flag flies, have legislative autonomy and serve as models for autonomists since the publication, in 1962, of the manifesto “To the Corsican problem, a Corsican solution”, written, among others, by his father, Yves Le Bomin. For this elected official, being able to vote for laws and standards specific to Corsica will be the first step to solving the ills of the Isle of Beauty.

Housing, a major problem

Priority project, mentioned instantly by all Corsicans, young or old, in cafes, at church or on the road: housing. “A two-room apartment in Bastia rents for between 600 and 700 euros, which is nothing compared to the purchasing power of the premises,” laments Nico, a trader in the historic Citadel district. Its average price of 4,303 euros per square meter places Corsica in second position among the most expensive regions in France (behind Île-de-France). But unlike the Paris region, Corsica is also the poorest region (excluding overseas): 18.3% of the population lives below the poverty line, compared to 14.4% nationally.

This hiatus between real estate and purchasing power weighs on the Corsicans who suffer from the tourist torrent, in spring and summer (9.3 million overnight stays in 2023). The island has suffered from real estate speculation for decades. In places, this frenzy borders on the absurd, as in Porto-Vecchio (Southern Corsica), where the mayor, Jean-Christophe Angelini, counted in 2020 “63% of second homes. Empty houses, everywhere… Not being able to find accommodation in your own village is an infinite suffering for the Corsicans,” proclaims the elected autonomist. Legislating on real estate and land is one of the skills that the Corsican Assembly wishes to obtain, in particular by getting its hands on taxation in order to benefit the island population.

In the current draft text, Corsica could set its own standards, independently of national laws, but always in compliance with the Constitution because they are subject to the opinion of the Council of State or the Constitutional Council.

A majority aspiration among Corsican elected officials but not unanimous: the singular voice of Jean-Martin Mondoloni is opposed to island elected officials being able to produce laws. The leader of the right-wing opposition in the Corsican Assembly considers that normative adaptations are sufficient to respond to local specificities and is concerned about the risk of drift: “In the long term, this legislative autonomy can constitute a slow way but marked to move towards self-determination and a tunnel that would lead us to independence. »

Chimerical for many, desires for independence, although now in the minority, remain strong, in fact, in certain pockets of the population. The tags “I Francesi Fora” (The French outside) or “Terra corsa ai Corsi” (Corsican land for the Corsicans), which scar the facades of buildings and the bridges of the winding road between Corte and Ajaccio, bear witness to this.

Inscriptions that exasperate some residents. “Many have been bottle-fed with nationalism but understand nothing about history or the economy,” says Lucas, a Bastia worker in his thirties. They write “The French outside” but without the continentals, our businesses close. Without tourists, the “Island of Beauty” no longer exists. »

No access to care

For Lucas, the prosperity of Corsica is not to be found in a distance from France but in better development of the island: “The lack of access to healthcare is bothering the Corsicans, we have the feeling of a France two speeds. » Words which echo those of the historian Michel Vergé-Franceschi, professor emeritus since 2019 and author of Corsica, autonomy in question. Opposed to autonomy, he recognizes glaring disparities between the island and the rest of the metropolis: “In 1958, Professor Robert Debré – at the origin of the creation of the CHU – maintained that it was necessary to open a CHU in each region of France. I was 7 years old, I am now 72, and Corsica remains the only French region to still be deprived of a university hospital and a medical faculty. » Lacking specialists, Corsicans are forced, at their own expense, to take the boat or plane to Marseille or Nice to consult a dermatologist, a neurologist or a pulmonologist.

This hope for economic and social development of the island is stifled by the specter of banditry. “Here, we usually say that the best thing to wish for someone who opens a business is that their business doesn’t work so that they don’t get extorted by the mafia,” says Julien Morison, a nationalist sitting at the café on the market square. Aged 22, he studied history at Corte, the only university on the island, founded in 1765 by Pascal Paoli during the brief period of independence, and reopened in 1981, under the leadership of the Riacquistu – the movement of reappropriation of Corsican language and culture.

In this nationalist bastion, Julien, like other activists, says he is convinced that achieving autonomy is the best way to fight against organized crime. A major task: in 2022, a note from the General Directorate of the National Police identified 25 criminal gangs on the island. Hypothetical, the ability of nationalist elected officials to repress these mafias remains a figment of the imagination because discussions on autonomous Corsica exclude sovereign power (justice, police, diplomacy, defense) from future powers. Especially since some fear greater porosity between public authorities and mafia. “Everyone knows each other here,” says a Corsican lawyer. The island’s uniqueness is manifested in the proximity of family and clan ties, which explains why organized crime is so well established. Giving more power to local elected officials also means taking the risk of creating more collusion. » The warning deserves to be heeded. The only certainty is that, faced with an underworld that has become an inalienable component of this island society, the fight will continue to be fought from the continent, autonomy or not.

Similar Posts