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Macron Confronts Corsica’s Calls for More Autonomy

Macron Confronts Corsica’s Calls for More AutonomyMacron Confronts Corsica’s Calls for More Autonomy

French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Corsica on Tuesday to confront demands for greater autonomy for the restive Mediterranean island by nationalists buoyed by unprecedented political strength.

Macron paid homage to Claude Erignac, the island’s prefect who was shot dead by separatists in Ajaccio two decades ago, and will later meet nationalist leaders before setting out his vision for Corsica in a speech on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Corsica’s relationship with mainland France has long troubled French presidents. Separatists waged a 40-year militant campaign, blowing up police stations and mansions owned by mainlanders and carrying out assassinations, before laying down arms in 2014.

Since then, the same dissatisfaction with mainstream parties that has spurred secessionist ambitions elsewhere in Europe, such as Catalonia, has bolstered the nationalists’ political support. In December, the two-party “Pe a Corsica” (For Corsica) nationalist alliance won nearly two-thirds of seats in the regional assembly.

Its leaders demand a special status for Corsica in the constitution and greater autonomy, as well as equal status for the French and Corsican languages and amnesty for Corsicans jailed for pro-independence violence.

Macron has said he is open to some changes but has ruled out recognizing Corsican alongside French, and on Tuesday reiterated his refusal to pardon Corsican militants.

Unlike Spain and Germany, France has been reluctant to devolve much power to its regions, despite some decentralization in the 1980s.

Corsica’s tiny 8.6-billion-euro economy is propped up by central government financing and local tax breaks, and lacks the clout of Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of the Spanish economy, or Scotland, which enjoys substantial devolved authority while remaining within the United Kingdom.

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