Emmanuel Macron in Corsica: “The unity of the Republic is a principle which already has many exceptions, particularly overseas”

Invited to speak Thursday morning before the Corsican Assembly, in Ajaccio, after more than a year of discussions between the State and island leaders, Emmanuel Macron called for “building autonomy for Corsica in the Republic "

Emmanuel Macron in Corsica: “The unity of the Republic is a principle which already has many exceptions, particularly overseas”

Invited to speak Thursday morning before the Corsican Assembly, in Ajaccio, after more than a year of discussions between the State and island leaders, Emmanuel Macron called for “building autonomy for Corsica in the Republic ". “This autonomy must be the means to build the future together. Without disengagement from the State. It will not be autonomy against the State, nor autonomy without the State, but autonomy for Corsica and in the Republic,” he explained.

In terms of form, the Head of State gives six months to the Corsican government and elected officials to arrive at a “constitutional and organic text thus subject to your agreement”. The latter would then serve as the basis for a “constitutional review.”

In order to take stock of the presidential declarations, André Fazi, lecturer in political science at the Pasquale-Paoli University of Corsica, answered your questions during a chat.

André Fazi: This is precisely the point: we must revise the Constitution. The constituent power is sovereign and the Constitutional Council even recognizes that it “does not derive from Article 61, nor from Article 89, nor from any other provision of the Constitution the power to rule on a constitutional revision”. In other words: we can establish exceptions to common principles, and there are already many of them. It remains to be seen precisely what exceptions and whether the procedure can be completed.

There is no real sure path, but we can assume that this would primarily concern the economy, land use planning, transport, the environment, agriculture and fishing, etc. Please note: a skill is not a block. When I talk about the environment, that obviously does not include the management of nuclear waste.

Before assembling the famous three-fifths majority in Congress (the national referendum seems to be excluded), it will be necessary to overcome the obstacle of the senatorial majority in the Senate. In terms of constitutional revision, in a first phase both chambers of Parliament must vote on the same text, which gives veto power to the Senate. There is little doubt that the review process will be very difficult and could come down to a few votes.

The domino effect is far from being proven everywhere and it remains a highly debated subject in political science. For example, the Catalan independence movement has not been emulated in Spain. On the contrary, it has rather led to the strengthening of the most centralist actors. Furthermore, I do not believe that the Breton or Basque autonomists have the same representation today as the Corsican autonomists.

Independence is not the subject of today, but it is a hypothesis considered by certain actors. The independence leaders themselves never talk about immediate independence. Corsica's GDP has increased significantly over the past twenty years, that's for sure. Would that already be enough to balance the public accounts today? Probably not, but the calculations are difficult to establish.

As for the European Union, from the moment this independence is negotiated and agreed, it could integrate Corsica through the normal route or through an accelerated route. What interest would France have in opposing it? However, I repeat: this is now fiction.

We are still lacking details, but initially Corsica should not – for different reasons – be at the level of autonomy of the Italian and Spanish regions. According to what the President of the Republic said, the normative power of Corsica could resemble that which is concretely exercised by the Italian regions, that is to say that it would consist essentially in the adaptation of national legislation.

Here too, the mystery remains great. The recognition and the perspective are there, but it will be difficult to realize them without legal reforms, particularly at the constitutional level. It is perfectly possible that French remains the sole language of the Republic while giving regional languages ​​a higher constitutional status than it is today. In the Constitution, article 75-1 states that “regional languages ​​belong to the heritage of France”.

He only did it indirectly, but everyone understood. A resident status, reserving the possibility of purchasing land or real estate for those who have resided in Corsica as their main residence for a certain number of years, would pose a problem at the level of the Constitution but also at that of the European treaties which enshrine the freedom of movement of people, goods, capital and investments. However, European treaties can only be revised – for the moment – ​​unanimously.

Of course, the President of the Republic does not validate all of the requests of said deliberation. I am unable to appreciate the implications of this request for consensus. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of differences between the separatists and the right, the latter taking up the orientations of the constitutional bills of 2018 and 2019. If it is the requirement of a total agreement, it will necessarily be very complicated and would give veto power to the minority.

Total autonomy, with differentiated budgets and a state that only deals with defense and foreign affairs, is a model that was especially envisaged at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Regional autonomy in Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and overseas France are absolutely not designed this way. There is a complex sharing of skills and the State logically continues to finance what falls under its jurisdiction.

What is more difficult to accept is for the State to finance the additional costs resulting from normative adaptations decided locally. However, it can be a co-financer if it judges that it is consistent with its vision of the public interest. For example, in Polynesia, the State largely finances education even though it is a transferred skill. Is it negative?

No one knows yet. The question of inheritance taxation is very symbolic and discussed in Corsica. We can also imagine that the taxation of real estate capital gains will be quickly addressed. At the level of major taxes, we could imagine a Spanish model, where the territorial authority would be competent to adapt the rates on a part – to be defined – of the tax base. In any case, the question is decisive. Today, the Corsican Community has almost no room for maneuver in tax matters.

Without a doubt. In its program for the 2022 legislative elections, the New Ecological and Social Popular Union – with the exception of the French Communist Party – supports the idea of ​​a “status guaranteed by article 74 of the Constitution”, which authorizes broad territorial autonomy like that of Polynesia. However, this does not mean that all left-wing parliamentarians, particularly in the Senate, will fully commit to giving Corsica the greatest possible autonomy. On such a subject, it is likely that partisan discipline is not fully respected, on the side of the majority as well as the opposition.

The unity of the Republic is a principle which already knows numerous exceptions. In overseas territories, they are confusing, even allowing territorial assemblies to restrict the right to work for the benefit of the resident population. I believe that few are offended by this, even if I cannot minimize the legal, symbolic and even identity effects of these exceptions. Concerning Corsica, the President of the Republic seems not to consider validating the constitutional revision by national referendum.