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Nationalist Corsica, before the first examination

The coalition between Autonomist and Independentists looks at Catalonia in full campaign for regional elections in December

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Nationalist Corsica, before the first examination

There are Corsican enthusiasts with possibility of an independent Catalonia, Corsican who see with skepticism attempt to separate from Spain, and Corsican to whom Catalan crisis seems a bad omen for this Mediterranean island that belongs to France since 1768.

In no or region of European France — excluding overseas Territories — language itself is so widespread and in no nationalists hold as much power as here. On eve of December territorial (or regional) elections, of which a new legislative assembly and a new regional government will emerge, Catalonia plans on campaign as a diffuse mirror of local aspirations and fears.

"Some politicians try to use Catalonia against Corsican nationalists, pointing to risks that this path can make," explains André Fazi political of University of Corte, in center of island.

Catalonia means different things depending on who you ask. There is No need to leave current nationalist coalition that governs island. The majority sector, Autonomista, of president of local executive, Gilles Simeoni, dreams of a similar autonomy to that which has had Catalonia in constitutional Spain. Its partners, independence of President of Assembly, Jean-Guy Talamoni, dream of independent Catalonia that deputies of majority of Catalan parliament proclaimed on Friday.

Corsica is an island of rugged mountains in interior and tourist villages on coast, with 320,000 inhabitants, a small country of Napoléon Bonaparte but never fully French, and marked by decades of political and mafia violence. A car ride between two largest cities — Bastia in norast; And capital, Ajaccio, in west — by winding roads that cross island means crossing with graffiti that say "France out," "Viva Corsica Libre," or calling for release of so-called "political prisoners." In some posters that indicate directions, usually bilingual, names in French have been erased with black ink to leave m only in Corsican.

But nationalists are no longer clandestine, nor are y hiding in remote forests, nor are y far from power as y were until recently. Now y're wearing ties and running budgets.

Since 2015 elections gave m victory with 35% of votes, y play power. For first time y ruled Corsica. A year before y had closed period of violence: Four decades with a balance of dozens of deaths, many in internecine fights, and thousands of attacks.

At headquarters of Corsican assembly, located in an old luxury hotel with imposing views of Ajaccio Bay, Simeoni and Talamoni form one of most heterodox political tandems in French politics: against will of Paris, y work to obtain levels of Autonomy that would break with centralist and Jacobin tradition of France. On 1 January, merger of two departments that now set up Corsica in a single collectivity must reinforce regional powers.

In his office as President of Parliament, Jean-Yves Talamoni has a European flag and anor Corsa. No sign of Frenchwoman. "I'm not French, but I'm a friend of France," he proclaims.

Talamoni knows Catalan independences well. He was in Barcelona during Catalan vote of October 1. "I think Catalans will win." "I am sure," he says in allusion to independence.

Although he is an independentist, he does not believe that Catalan way is Corsica's. "Corsica has a long delay with respect to Catalonia," he explains. The delay is institutional: powers of island are now much lower than those of autonomous Catalonia, and those of any Spanish autonomy. And it is an economic delay: Corsica is one of poorest areas in France; Catalonia, one of richest in Europe. The President of Corsican Assembly believes that Corsica must first achieve more autonomy and develop economy: once at this point, conditions will be given to make leap.

"It is clear that Catalonia will open way for or peoples." But, with regard to Corsica, and taking into account current situation, it will be difficult to imagine a process before ten years, he says. "We're not next on list."

Corsica and Catalonia, insists Talamoni, are different, among or aspects, in methods. And he cites "armed struggle" of FLNC and or dissident groups. "Without se 40 years of conflict we wouldn't be here," he admits.

"Jean-Guy Talamoni is an independentist." I do not, "clarifies Gilles Simeoni, chief executive of Corso and ally of Talamoni. The independence, according to Simeoni, "is not an institutional objective adapted to realities and needs of Corsica." "The most adapted to our needs and hopes and to global environment is greater autonomy."

The old model of autonomous Catalonia? "It would be completely satisfactory to us," he replies.

"It is important for me to reinforce cohesion of Corsican society instead of thinking of a block-versus-block logic (...)." "Our victory, which was a historic victory for nationalists, could not be victory of some Corsican over ors."

The problem is refusal of Paris to give in concessions that nationalists consider central, as coofficiality of Corsican language; The creation of a statute of residents on island that obliges to live in Corsica to own houses; And approach or amnesty that Simeoni and Talamoni call "political prisoners." Nor do objectives of greater autonomy find an echo in Paris. Both this way and, moreover, that of independence, seem clogged. The hopes that, among some Corsican nationalists, could create election in May of Emmanuel Macron — a new young president, with a girondists spirit: that is, decentralizing — are deflating.

Simeoni and Talamoni Dan for sure re's no turning back. Political violence, clandestinity, terrorism is a thing of past.

On road that leaves coastal town of Aleria in direction of Bastia, where modern nationalist movement was born, re is from 2014 a plaque to remember occupation by militants of winery of a vineyard owned by an immigrant Frenchman from Algeria in 1975 which led to an armed assault by security forces. One of detainees was Edmond Simeoni, historical leader of nationalism and far of Gilles Simeoni. An act of vandalism recently damaged plaque and is now wrapped in black trash bags.

No one will stop to look at plaque on road. Hidden behind bags, it goes unnoticed. It seems that this past already means little. Corsican nationalism wants to look to future.

Parlament statement: Between enthusiasm and caution

Jean-Guy Talamoni, Corsican independence leader and president of Corsica Assembly, was one of few foreign leaders to greet on Friday--and he also did so in Corsican language--"a nascita di a Republica di Catalogoa." That is, " birth of a Republic of Catalonia".

His ally Gilles Simeoni, president of regional executive, was more cautious, conscious that hardly recognition of Corsica would have any value, more than symbolic. "I salute mobilization of Catalan people, I understand ir aspirations, and I understand that declaration of independence is a strong symbolic and political act," said Simeoni to EL PAÍS. "But I think that symbolic and political recognition that [ Corsican] can make of Catalan decision is not enough at international level."

Simeoni, who is a nationalist but not an independentist, praised "strong political and symbolic act that Catalan parliament wanted to make and which arouses a joy and emotion in independentists and those who share ir aspirations" "That said," He pointed out, "It is an act" "That falls within a context of crisis, and Declaration, as such, is an important element, but it is an element in this crisis"

"Today," he continued, " most important thing is to reemncontrar a way of dialogue, and European Union must contribute to renewing it." Europe cannot be just Europe of States and even less of reason for statehood.


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