The recent visit of President Valery Giscard d'Estaing to Corsica has drawn attention to the resentment that exists on France's Mediterranean island.
The recent visit of President Valery Giscard d'Estaing to Corsica has drawn attention to the resentment that exists on France's Mediterranean island. Despite promises for the future by the French President, many of the Corsican people feel that Paris does not care that their prosperity is declining and their young people emigrating. Some of them have expressed these feelings in violence. They want at least self-government, and the more extreme of them want complete separation.
SYNOPSIS: Corsica is a beautiful island. The mountains of the interior rise to more than 2,000 metres (6,000 feet). It has been French for 200 years, and produced France's most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte. The scrub that covers the hillsides -- the maquis -- gave its name to the French resistance movement in the second world war.
But the Corsican people -- about a quarter of a million of them -- say they cannot live on beauty and tradition. They claim that the French central government is neglecting their economic problems.
They have turned militant. The Moor's Head -- symbol of Corsican self-consciousness -- appears in unlikely places. Nationalist movements have left their insignia all over the countryside -- particularly on French government property.
Some groups want the French to leave altogether. The one led by the Sime???nis -- two doctor brothers -- would stay with France if Corsica was given more self government.
Particularly, the militants dislike the French Foreign Legion's base in Corsica, and the French settlers who moved to the island from Algeria. There have been serious clashes with police over the settlers, who have largely taken over Corsica's most profitable asset, its vineyards.
Violence is on the increase. There have been more than a hundred explosions, shootings or burnings already this year. Railways, gas and electricity offices and the television station have been among the targets in the past few years, as well as the property of French mainland residents and settlers from Algeria.
With its magnificent scenery and lovely coastline, Corsica is a popular holiday resort, and tourism makes a substantial contribution to its economy. But the Corsicans feel that France could do more to improve communications -- for trade as well as for tourists. They also want better education facilities and more jobs, so that the young people no longer find themselves forced to emigrate to the mainland.
At the airport at Bastia, the autonomists make their points: Corsica, to them, is primarily Corsican, even if -- for the time being at least, in their eyes -- it is also French.