Traveling in Corsica, Gérald Darmanin expected on autonomy

A crucial meeting for Gérald Darmanin

Traveling in Corsica, Gérald Darmanin expected on autonomy

A crucial meeting for Gérald Darmanin. The Minister of the Interior is going to Corsica on Wednesday September 13 and Thursday September 14, where his position on possible autonomy for the island is eagerly awaited by the nationalists, even if the mayors also hope for progress on water, waste and town planning.

Seven months after his last visit, Gérald Darmanin must meet, from 4:30 p.m., with the autonomist president of the executive Gilles Simeoni, before participating, in Ajaccio, in a general assembly of the island's mayors.

“We expect a lot from this visit,” explains to Agence France-Presse the president of the association of mayors of Haute-Corse, Ange-Pierre Vivoni, who is banking on “the same program as the meeting which was planned in October 2022 and which had not taken place, that is to say talking about water, sanitation, household waste and town planning, and of course autonomy”.

But “the question of autonomy is not a major question for mayors”, he added, recalling that “80% of mayors do not have a label in Corsica” and “95% of municipalities have union lists” mixing right-wing, left-wing and nationalist elected officials, who “all have a different opinion” on the subject.

However, the subject should be omnipresent on Wednesday evening during the minister's dinner with the presidents of political groups of the Corsican Assembly. Thursday morning, he will have breakfast with the mayor of Ajaccio, Stéphane Sbraggia before meeting Gilles Simeoni at 9:30 a.m. for a second interview.

At the beginning of September, Gilles Simeoni admitted during a meeting of his party Femu a Corsica that he did not know what the State wanted to move towards in terms of constitutional revision concerning the island, while estimating that "the moments that are coming will to be one of the most important in Corsican history.

This trip comes as the Corsican Assembly failed at the beginning of July to agree on a single autonomy project for this island of 340,000 inhabitants bringing together the entire political spectrum. At the end of two days of extraordinary session, the elected islanders had in fact transmitted to the government and to President Emmanuel Macron two projects, one from the quasi-united nationalists and the other from the right-wing opposition.

At the end of February, during the resumption of discussions on the institutional future of the island, which had been stopped for six months, Emmanuel Macron reiterated his readiness to include possible developments in his constitutional reform project, at the expense of the Corsican elected officials and the Ministry of the Interior to present “a proposal […] before July 14.”

He also recalled his red lines: maintaining Corsica in the Republic and refusing to create two categories of citizens. The nationalists' text, adopted by the Corsican Assembly where they occupy 46 of the 63 seats, calls for "legal recognition of the Corsican people", "a status of co-officiality of the Corsican language" and recognition of the "link between Corsican people and their land” via “a resident status”.

This text takes up the main lines of Gilles Simeoni's report on his vision of autonomy for Corsica, namely that of legislative power in all areas for the Corsican Assembly, except those relating to sovereign powers. The second text, from the right-wing minority opposition, calls for a simple “power of adaptation” of French laws to Corsican specificities, without autonomous management of education and health and without transfer of taxation.

For Ange-Pierre Vivoni, “on autonomy, if there are declarations, it will be the President of the Republic who will make them”. A president whom the mayors have invited to go to Corsica, “like his predecessors”, for the 80th anniversary of the liberation of the island and who could make the trip at the end of the month, according to several sources close to the matter.

The fatal attack in prison on March 2, 2022, of independence activist Yvan Colonna, who was serving a life sentence for the assassination of prefect Érignac in 1998 in Ajaccio, had triggered violent demonstrations in Corsica. These clashes culminated in riots on March 13 in Bastia with 102 injured, including 77 among the police.

Sent to Corsica by the president-candidate Macron to calm the situation, the Minister of the Interior had opened the possibility of discussions which could “go as far as autonomy”.