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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Mixed reaction to Corsica autonomy idea

The people of Corsica will vote in July on proposals providing them with a degree of autonomy - but not everyone welcomes the prospect, writes the BBC's Martha Dixon.

The Mediterranean island of Corsica is described as France's playground

Is Corsica France's island playground - or does it have a thorn in its side?

Its peaceful beauty belies a violent separatist campaign.

Thirty years of bombs have left a trail of destruction in tourist spots along the coast - and political assassinations that have shocked France.

Now for the first time the people of Corsica are being offered autonomy.

Doria Pazzoni is a Corsican artist - a fastidious preserver of traditions through music and the Corsican language. But she doesn't know how she will vote in the referendum in July.

"For me it's all a question of will, not about making laws," she says.

These reforms have been done just to please the nationalists - who I am against because they want to separate from France
Bastia mayor, Emile Zuccarelli

"If today we wanted to use the Corsican language, there is nothing that stops us speaking it on a daily basis, even for business. But, it's true, it does demands a big effort."

A revamped Corsican assembly has been proposed give power to local politicians.

The French Government hopes to sate the nationalist appetite with this process. But nationalists say it may not be enough for the armed wing, the clandestines, to stop their struggle.

Thin end of wedge

"It's very difficult to predict what the clandestines will do, said Jean-Guy Talamoni of the Corsica Nazione coalition.

"We know that they do dream of peace, but violence won't end just from being condemned - that will only happen when the conditions are right."

Corsica's identity is strong despite being French for more than 200 years.

Now it is forcing Paris to change one of the pillars of the French constitution - a one and undivided republic is being sacrificed for this spirited island.

This step forward for the separatists has created anger among those here happy to live under the French flag.

Even though the proposal is for limited autonomy, some see it as the thin end of the wedge.

Emile Zuccarelli, mayor of Bastia, says: "These reforms have been done just to please the nationalists - who I am against because they want to separate from France, and also they work with bombing and violence. They aren't democrats, they are fascists."

Tourists flock to see where Corsica's most famous son, Napoleon, grew up. He wanted his native island to fall in line with a powerful united France.

Just like autonomy, there is mixed feeling here about the man who changed French history.

Corsica to vote on autonomy
07 Apr 03  |  Europe
France offers Corsica new deal
04 Apr 03  |  Europe
Corsica rattled by bombs
19 Oct 02  |  Europe
Separatists reject Corsica plans
02 Aug 02  |  Europe

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