The Matignon Process and Insular Autonomy as a Response to Self-Determination Claims in Corsica

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  • 1 The author is Minority Protection Program Officer for the EU Accession Monitoring Program at the Open Society Institute in Budapest. Previously, she held a position as Senior Research Associate at the European Centre for Minority Issues in Flensburg, Germany.

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  • t An earlier version of this article was presented at the ECMI panel Recent Challenges to Power- Sharing Theory at the Sixth Annual Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN), Columbia University, New York, 5 April 2001. 1 According to John McGarry and Brendan O'Leary, The Politics of Ethnic Conflict Regulation ( London, 1993). conflict regulation methods may be divided into two broad categories: those aimed at eliminat- ing differences, and those aimed at managing differences; combinations of these two methods may also be found. The latter category is further divided into four sub-categories: (a) hegemonic control; (b) arbitration or third-party intervention; (c) cantonization and/or federalization; and (d) consoci- ationalism or power-sharing. 2 McGarry and O'Leary, The Politics of Ethnic Confiict ..., 32.

  • 3 Arend Lijphart, Democracy in Plural Societies (New Haven, Conn., 1977). 4 Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley, 1985).

  • 5 Ruth Lapidoth, Autonomy: Flexible Solutions to Ethnic Conflicts (Washington DC, 1997), 3. 6 Ibid., 33. 7 Kjell-Ake Nordquist, "Autonomy as a Conflict-Solving Mechanism - An Overview", in Markku Suksi (ed.), Autonomy: Applications and Implications (The Hague/London/Boston, 1998), 59-77, at 63-4. 8 Markku Suksi, "On the Entrenchment of Autonomy", ibid., 12. 9 See also Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Confiicting Rights (Philadelphia, 1996), 27-49 on autonomy and the application of self-determination to non-colonial situations.

  • '° Jean-Louis Briquet, La Tradition en mouvement: Clientelisme et politique en Corse (Paris, 1997); id., "Le Probleme corse", 240 Regards sur l'actualitg (1998), 25-37. " Nationalists claim that support for independence is at about 25%, based on the results of separatist nationalists in elections to the Corsican Assembly (it should be noted, however, that this is not a pure separatist vote for it consists also of autonomist and protest votes - see Table 1). The share of the population of France as a whole favouring independence for Corsica is as high as 40%, reflecting lassitude concerning the fate of this troublesome region also perceived as a guzzler of state funds. 12 According to a 1982 survey, 96% of the inhabitants of Corsican origin understood Corsican and 86% regularly spoke it (see at Another poll from 1995 found that 81 % of all persons polled understood Corsican and 64% spoke it. See Herve Guillorel, "La Langue corse: histoire et enjeux actuels", 47 Pouvoirs Locaux (December 2000), 69-75, at 71 (no official statistics are available). 13 This provision, "French is the language of the Republic", was only added in 1992. The Constitution of 4 October 1958, last amended in October 2000, is available at http://www.conseil- (in French) and (in official English translation). the 1951 Deixonne Law on the teaching of regional languages excluded Corsican, Alsatian and Flemish on the grounds that they were non-native dialects; the measures of this law were extended to Corsican by Decree No. 74-33 of 16 January 1974 (although not recognizing it as a regional language of France but simply as langue Corse, for it is considered to have a special status under the 1991 Corsican Special Statute). A degree to teach a regional language at the secondary level (CAPES) may be obtained for Corsican as well as for the Basque, Breton, Catalan, Occitanian and French Tahitian languages.

  • �5 James Minahan, "Corsica", in Nations Without States: A Historical Dictionary of Contemporarr National Mouements (Westport. Conn./London, 1996), 134-6. '6 Claude Olivesi, "The Failure of Regionalist Party Formation", in Lieven de Winter and Huri Tursan (eds.), Regionalist Parties in Western Europe (London/New York, 1998), 174-89. " An important trigger was the 1957 Programme d'action regional de la Corse, a development plan proposed by the government for the expansion of tourism and the renewal of the agricultural sector. It was used the following year to relocate 17,000 pied noir colonists and loyalists from Algeria who were given preferential treatment for obtaining land in the Eastern Plain region of Corsica. much to the frustration of the local population.

  • 18 on 21 August 1975, the peaceful occupation of a wine cellar belonging to a pied noir settler by militants of the autonomist ARC (Action regionaliste corse) turned into tragedy when the cellar was stormed by the gendarmes and two of them were killed. '9 As a result of major disagreements over institutional reform, the FLNC split into two branches in 1990: the FLNC-Historic Channel and the FLNC-Usual Channel. New clandestine groups and polit- ical fronts keep appearing and disappearing. For a genealogy, see John Loughlin and Farimah Daftary, "Insular Regions and European Integration: Corsica and the Aland Islands Compared", ECMI Report # 5 (Flensburg, 1999), 62-3. 20 Briquet, in "Le Probleme corse ..:', 32-4, notes that demands to protect the specific Corsican language and culture are not a symptom of a suppressed identity; rather, they have been taken up by various actors because of their mobilizing potential. Recognition of these demands and institutional measures proposed by the government result in fights over credit for these concessions so that reform actually leads to increased conflict between interest groups.

  • 21 Source: Peter Savigear, "Corsica", in Michael Watson (ed.), Contemporary Minority Nationalism (London/New York, 1990), 86-99; Claude Olivesi, "La Corse et la Construction europ6enne", in Annuaire des Collectivites Locales, L'annee 1994 dans I'administration locale (Paris, 1995), 51-65; id., "The Failure of Regionalist Party Formation", 174-189, and Loughlin and Daftary, Insular Regions .... 60-61. See also the genealogy of Corsican nationalist groups in ibid., 62-3. 22 France signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe on 7 May 1999; however, the Constitutional Council found that it was contrary to Article 2 of the Constitution ("French is the language of the Republic") and could therefore not be ratified (CC Decision No. 99-412 of 15 June 1999).

  • 22 France signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe on 7 May 1999; however, the Constitutional Council found that it was contrary to Article 2 of the Constitution ("French is the language of the Republic") and could therefore not be ratified (CC Decision No. 99-412 of 15 June 1999). z' Two institutions play an important role in ensuring respect of the Constitution and entrenchment of the rule of law (1'Etat de droit): the Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel), which is not a supreme judiciary court but a permanent consultative court which may be consulted on the conformity with the Constitution of acts of Parliament, and the Council of State (Conseil d'Etat) which advises the government on decrees, ordinances or bills before they are presented to parliament. The decisions of the Constitutional Council, which are binding, may lead to total or partial censure of a law but not its annulment as decisions are handed down before promulgation or ratification (for more on the Constitutional Council and past decisions, see at Consultation of the Conseil d'Etat is mandatory regarding draft laws and decrees, but its decisions are non-binding and secret (see at za Emmanuel Negrier, "The Changing Role of French Local Government", 22(4) West European Politics (1999), 120-40. 25 Apart from Corsica, one finds other 'exceptions': Paris, Lyon and Marseilles (communes); the depart- ment of Alsace-Moselle; and the ile-de-France (Paris) region. See Henri Oberdorff, Ges Institutions Administratives (Paris, 2000), 176-84.

  • 26 Ibid., 121-84. 2' The legal basis for the two special statutes of 1982 and 1991 for Corsica is provided by Article 34 of the Constitution, which recognizes the possibility of self-administration of territorial units ("statutes shall determine the fundamental principles of ... the self-government of territorial units. their powers and their resources") and Article 72 which allows for the creation of territorial units other than communes, departments, and overseas territories, and which shall be "self-governing through elected councils and in the manner provided by statute". Law No. 82-214 of 2 March 1982, Statut de la collectivite territoriale de Corse. z9 Law No. 91-428 of 13 May 1991, Statut de la collectivite territoriale de Corse. '° See CC Decision No. 91-290 of 9 May 1991. This article was based on a resolution of the Corsican Assembly of 13 October 1988 calling for the recognition of the peuple corse which Joxe had promised to incorporate into the new statute.

  • 31 The new statute also sought to give the new institutions the necessary financial means in connection with the additional transfer of powers. Resources are to a large extent provided by the state on the basis of a contract negotiated between the state and the region (Contrat de Plan Etat-Collectivite territoriale). Other measures include a special fiscal regime compensating for the high cost of trans- portation of goods to the island. " do: D�mocratie liberale. Political parties in Corsica can be divided into local branches of French parties and specific Corsican parties which are more or less nationalistic. On political parties in Corsica since 1982, see Olivesi, "The Failure of Regionalist Party Formation", 183. For complete results of the latest elections to the Corsican Assembly in 1999, see Loughlin and Daftary, "Insular Regions ...", 57-61. 33 The "Gauche plurielle" or "pluralist left" coalition is the same as the one in power in Paris. It consists of the Socialist Party ( PS - Parti socialiste), the Communist Party ( PCF - Parti communiste francais), the Citizens' Movement (MDC - Mouvement des Citoyens, and the Left Radicals (PRG - Parti des Radicaux de Gauche). While the PS is in favour of Jospin's proposals, the PRG is divided. The PC and especially the MDC are opposed to them. " This improvement compared to the 1998 elections (5 seats) was partly due to public dissatisfaction with the government policy of "re-establishing the rule of law". the Prefect is nominated by the French President. There is one prefect for the entire Corsican region (who is simultaneously the prefect of South Corsica, where the regional capital Ajaccio is located) and one prefect for North Corsica.

  • '6 These 'regionalists' maintain that unity does not entail uniformity and refer to the special legal regime in force in some French regions to advocate the local adaptation of national norms. Disagreements between the regionalist and the Jacobin/National-Republican visions intensified in 1999 and 2000 over both the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and reform in Corsica. " An umbrella organization, Unitd, was formed on 4 November 1999 by nine nationalist organizations; their stance on the use of political violence was, at best, ambiguous. Several autonomist organizations therefore refused to join it. 38 These are funds reserved for peripheral and underdeveloped regions. This decision was made due to Corsica's GDP having marginally surpassed 75 per cent of the EU average. 39 While 28 elected Corsican representatives attended the meeting on 13 December 1999 (including the two senators and four national deputies from Corsica, the presidents of the two departmental general councils, as well as 18 Corsican deputies representing the nine political groups at the Assembly), the senators and national deputies were not invited at subsequent meetings. The French Government was represented at these meetings by the Prime Minister's advisor for Corsica (also the person behind the

  • new statute for New Caledonia, see section F), the new Prefect of Corsica, and the head of the Interior Minister's office. .0 Corsica Nazione is practically the same organization as :1 Cuncolta S'aziunalista (the political front of the FLNC-Historic Channel) since the other two parties in this pre-electoral coalition formed in 1992, the UPC and ANC, later withdrew (ct Table 1). ). " A devolution of legislative power would necessitate a revision of the Constitution for, according to its Article 34, "statutes shall be passed by Parliament". ". .1 This cleavage became apparent on 10 March 2000 when the Corsican Assembly adopted not one. but two proposals addressed to the government: a relative majority resolution (22 votes) in favour of

  • political autonomy, backed by the Assembly President and the nationalists; and an absolute majority resolution (26 votes) in favour of more decentralization, backed by the Jacobin mayor of Bastia Emile Zuccarelli. See "L'Autonomie trebuche a I'assemblee corse", Liberation ( 11-12 March 2000). 43 The nationalist deputies had five short-term demands: strict application of the law on the protection of the Corsican coastline; protection of the wild areas in Corsica; total cessation of the 'inquisition- style' practices of the French administration and justice system; an end to the process of 'de- Corsicanization' of jobs (decorsisation des emplois); and the re-grouping of all 'political prisoners' in Corsica, until an amnesty is declared. These were moderate demands compared to those first presented in March 2000: official recognition of the Corsican people, establishment of a regional Corsican citizenship, amnesty for nationalist prisoners, and devolution of legislative powers (see Liberation, 10 March 2000).

  • " This document, Propositions du gouvernement soumises aux representants des elus de la Corse (Proposals of the government submitted to the elected representatives of Corsica) is available at °5 The Constitution may only be revised with the approval of the French President.

  • 46 "S'agissant de 1'adaptation de dispositions legislatives, le Gouvernement proposera au Parlement de donner a la collectivite territoriale de Corse la possibilit6 de deroger, par ses deliberations, a certaines dispositions legislatives, dans des conditions que le Parlement definirait, les adaptations ainsi intervenues a l'initiative de I'assembl6e devant, comme le prevoit la decision no. 93-322 du conseil constitutionnel du 28 juillet 1993 qui affirme la conformite a la Constitution de telles experimentations, etre ensuite evaluces avant que le Parlement ne decide de les maintenir, de les modifier ou de les abandonner." (Proposals of 20 July, Section 1.C "I'adaptation dcs normes"). 47 Ibid. 'e Gerard Marcou, "Deleguer un pouvoir legislative a I'Assembl6e de Corse?" 47 Pouvoirs Locaux (2000), 113-8; Roland Debbasch, "L'Avcnir Institutionnel de la Corse et la Constitution", 47 Pouvoirs Locaux (2000), 91-6. '9 See Section IV.D on the Overseas Territories.

  • so The Constitutional Council would certainly reject the mandatory teaching of Corsican (see Decision No. 91-290 of 9 May 1991 which allowed for teaching of Corsican during normal school hours as long as it was not mandatory, and also Decision No. 96-373 of 9 April 1996 on the teaching of Tahitian in French Polynesia). 51 "Les elus de l'assemblée Corse ont unanimement demande ... un enseignement generalise de la langue corse ... Le Gouvernement proposera au Parlement le vote d'une disposition posant le principe selon lequel 1'enseignement de la langue corse prendra place dans 1'horaire scolaire normal des ecoles maternelles et primaires et pourra ainsi etre suivi par tous les eleves, sauf volonte contraire des parents." (Proposals of 20 July, Section 3 "L'enseignement de la langue corse"). s2 There are four DOM (departements d'outre-mer) - Reunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guiana -established according to Article 73 of the Constitution. Although they are not entitled to a particular organization, their legislative system and administrative organization have been adapted to their particular situation because of the great distance which separates them from the mainland. The TOM (territoires d'outre-mer) - New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, and the French Austral and Antarctic Territories - are entitled to self-administration and a particular organization defined by law, according to Article 74 of the Constitution. See the website of the State Secretariat for Overseas at 53 This status was created for Mayotte when, in a referendum on 11 April 1976, it rejected both independ- ence and TOM status. The other collectivite territoriale is St. Pierre-et-Miquelon (established 11 June 1985). See also Helen Hintjens, John Loughlin and Claude Olivesi, "The Status of Maritime and Insular France: The DOM-TOM and Corsica", in John Loughlin and Sonia Mazey (eds.), The End of the French Unitary State? Ten Years of Regionalisation in France (1982-1992) (London, 1995).

  • 5. A right to be consulted on draft laws and decrees had already been granted to the DOM general councils (law of 26 April 1960). In the case of the TOM. not only is consultation of the territorial assembly mandatory in case of an amendment to their statute, it is also binding (Art. 74 of the Constitution). 55 in its ruling of 9 May 1991, the Constitutional Council rejected a clause enabling the Corsican Assembly to request that the Prime Minister respond within a certain period. ss The proposed administrative simplification of Corsica through the abolishment of both departments is of great interest for the DOM as three of them - Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guiana - have called for the replacement of their current institutional structure (a mono-departmental region with a regional council as well as a departmental council ) by a single region with a single deliberative body (no department ). " The Constitutional Council has rejected a proposal to make it mandatory for the Prime Minister to respond to DOM proposals or opinions (Decision No. 2000-435 of 7 December 2000).

  • 58 Such powers were granted to New Caledonia by the Noumea Accords of 5 May 1998. The same will soon be done for French Polynesia (which is now a Pays d'Outre-Mer/POM). s9 The requirements for Caledonian citizenship, which is a prerequisite for the right to vote and which confers privileges in local employment, are ten years of residency and French citizenship. A similar Polynesian citizenship is also foreseen. There are no language proficiency requirements. bo On 26 June 1992, the Corsican Assembly adopted a resolution to grant the Corsican language official status. See Guillorel, "La Langue corse ...", 72. This resolution had no legal or other effects.

  • 6� The first version of the bill (Aoant projet de loi modifiant et completant le statut de la collectivize territoriale de Corse) (titerally-. "pre-draft law modifying and completing the statute of the Corsican territorial entity") is available at actuahtecorse;avant_projet.htm. Once the Prime Mitristei proposal for a bill had been adopted by the entire government, it became a "bill on Corsica" (Projet de loi relatif d la Corse). A complete file on the drafting process is available on the website of the French National Assembly, at,, corse2001.asp#accesdossier. 62 Although the decisions of the Conseil d'ktat are not normally made public, its main reservations on the Corsica bill were communicated to the press. See Liberation ( 14 February 2001 ).

  • 6' Corsicans are exempted by the Miot Decrees (arretes Miot), dating back to 1801, from paying inherit- ance taxes. This special regime was due to be abolished in 1999 and then again in 2001. The government had proposed a 10-year transitory period, with full exemption for the first five years only. 64 A rare clash occurred between Jospin and Chirac when the latter, in his capacity as guardian of the Constitution, refused to have the bill put on the agenda of the 14 February Council of Ministers meeting, following the criticism of the Conseil d'Etat. Jospin emphasized that the bill was the result of a political agreement which he did not have the authority to alter. bs See the government's bill submitted to the National Assembly at http// I.asp. 66 It is a draft law until it has been promulgated. It has to be approved by both chambers of Parliament, i.e. the National Assembly and the Senate, then it can be taken to the Constitutional Council if either the President, the Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate or 60 members of either chamber claim that the draft law or a part of it are contrary to the French Constitution. It is then promulgated. 6' For the text of the draft law adopted by the National Assembly on 22 May 2001 (Projet de loi relatif d la Corse no. 673), see

  • s8 Projet de loi no. 673, Title I, Chapter II, Article 7.1. s9 For the Senate version of the law (Projet de loi modifie par le Senat relatijd la Corse no. 3380), see at '° See Adopted Text No. 751 on Corsica adopted by the National Assembly on 18 December 2001 (Text adopte no. 751, "petite loi", Project de loi relatij i I Corse, texte définitif) at http://www.assemblee-

  • " Cf. Constitutional Council Decision No.2001-454 DC of 17 January 2002 at http:// 'z The Constitutional Council may be seized concerning the conformity with the French Constitution of a new law by the President, the Prime Minister, the president of the National Assembly or of the Senate, or 60 members of either (see also footnote 23). '3 Loi no. 2002-92 du 22 januier 2002 relative a la Corse, 19 Journal Officiel (23 January 2002), at =INTX0000188L.

  • -4 In French Polynesia under the 1996 Statute, disputes were frequently referred to the administrative court in Papeete which was ill-equipped to settle them, resulting in the great frustration of the local government. The Prefect as well as the Conseil d'Etat, acting as the supreme administrative judge, may also intervene, but a joint body composed of representatives of the autonomous entity and of the centre acting as an informal organ of mediation, as e.g. the Aland Delegation, could have been envisaged. - One option, modelled on the New Caledonian reforms, would be to incorporate the main elements of the reform into the Constitution (semi-general entrenchment). Another option would be to substan- tially revise the Constitution, granting all TOM as well as Corsica and maybe even other French regions rights going beyond self administration. A third option would be to stipulate through an organic law that Corsica constitutes a TOM in order to avoid problems of constitutionality and to avoid other French regions pressing for similar measures. See Thierry Michalon, "Vers l'indispensable autonomie", 47 Pouroirs Locaux ( December 2000). This would grant Corsica (and the Corsican people) the right to internal self-determination. '6 A referendum limited to Corsica poses problems of constitutionality for it amounts to recognizing a distinct Corsican people: a popular but non-binding consultation could eventually be held. Some opponents to the reforms have called on the eovernment to dissolve the Corsican Assembly and hold new elections but this may only be done in the case of serious problems in functioning. A poll taken in Corsica indicated that 50% were in favour of the bill on Phase 1 while 19% were against and 24% would have abstained had they been asked to vote on the bill in the Corsican Assembly in December 2000 (Louis Harris Institute poll of 600 persons in Corsica taken between 13 and 14 December 2000, published in Corsica. 3 January 2001; this poll was taken before the bill was 'watered down' by the National Assembly). In France, while 59% were in favour of the power to adapt French laws under the supervision of parliament (Phase 1) ( 30° were against support was much lower concerning the power to adapt laws without ratification by parliament in Phase 2 (61% against, 34% in favour) (IFOP poll of 802 persons cited in Le mode, 25 July 2000). One year later, following a spate of assassinations within the nationalist movement, support amongst the French population had dropped sharply: 57% were against the limited power to adapt French laws in Phase 1. However, 67% were in favour of the generalized teaching of Corsican. See Liberation (22 May 2001 ).

  • '8 In June 2001, the National Assembly adopted a bill on local democracy, including a short section on decentralization. '9 A new party, Indipendenza, which was founded on 13 May 2001, will most likely replace Corsica Nazione in the next elections owing to the latter's failure to obtain satisfaction of basic nationalist demands.

  • a° In June 2002, President Jacques Chirac was re-elected.

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