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Intel Brief: Rejuvenation of the Corsican Nationalist Movement



Date: 13/03/2024


Who’s involved:

  • Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu (FLNC), France, Corsica, Corsican nationalist movement.






What happened?


  • On 02/03/2024,  violent clashes erupted in Bastia, Corsica between the police and around 200 nationalists during a protest asking for more rights for Corsican freedom activists. The protestors threw rocks and other projectiles at the police, who responded with teargas and baton charges. The protest was held on the second anniversary of the death of a well-known Corsican militant Yvan Colonna, who was serving a prison sentence for his involvement in several terrorist activities throughout the years. He was killed in prison during a fight with an Islamist inmate allegedly over Colonna “disrespecting Mohammed”.

  • On 01/03/2024, Corsican prosecutors announced that they would start an investigation into the possible “apology of terrorism” by the Corsican nationalist youth group Ghjuventu Indipentista (Independent Youths) who are allegedly responsible for distributing leaflets saying that the “struggle for independence should continue and that the FLNC is the organization that will help get Corsica independence”.

  • On 29/02/2024, the French Minister of the Interior Gerald Damanin had talks with Corsican representatives addressing the possibility of more autonomy for Corsica within France in the near future. In September 2023, the French President Macron first proposed granting Corsica some autonomy, overturning previous French policy. 

  • On 08/02/2024, the FLNC targeted with an explosive device a house under construction in Santa Lucia di Moriani, Corsica. Since the start of 2024 there have been several bombings targeting primarily tourism related buildings and second houses of French citizens. 



Analysis:


  • The Corsican nationalist movement is not homogeneous. While many parties and politicians are aiming for a constructive dialogue with the central French authorities to gain more autonomy, other parts of the movement, such as the FLNC, refuse any ties with France and instead advocate for an independent Corsican state. Founded in 1976, the Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu (FLNC) is a militant independence group that was mainly active in the 1970s and 1980s. They targeted mainly buildings in Corsica and mainland France through bombings, especially government and police buildings and second houses of non-natives. In June 2014 the group announced its retirement but reemerged in 2022 after the death of Yvan Colonna, with spikes of up to twenty attacks in one night to express dissent against the policies of the central government. 

  • With Macron’s promise of delivering legislation for Corsican autonomy by March 2024, talks between the French government and Corsican authorities have increased. While the Corsican Assembly retains legislative power in some areas, local politicians have long campaigned for effective autonomy. Discussions will likely be lengthy as some French politicians are reluctant to devolve powers to autonomist movements. Other regional leaders seemed keen on asking for equal treatment after the news of Macron’s promise. Moreover, the changes required by Corsican authorities will involve changes to the Constitution of France and will likely be opposed by members of the Senate and the National Assembly. Corsican autonomy is still a divisive subject in France. A 2022 poll revealed that roughly half of the total population of France is in favor of Corsican autonomy, with right-wing voters being overall opposed to the idea. 

  • On the other hand, the FLNC has maintained their request for full independence from France, often stating that Corsica has no common destiny with mainland France. Even if autonomy is granted to Corsica, it is highly likely that they will continue to fight as it does not align with their requests. Bombings continued even after Macron’s promise of full autonomy, showing a spike in activity after he announced that the government was ready to grant autonomy.

  • Violent nationalist independence movements like the FLNC are seemingly in decline across Europe. With more freedom and autonomy given to contested regions and a local population tired of violence, radical independence groups have lost their wider societal base. But with the lack of gaining independence and a tendency of national governments to reject handing autonomy to specific regions, there is a growing unrest and impatience among younger nationalists. In Corsica the nationalist independence movement is now smaller in size and has less societal support, but they do consist of a group of young people who are willing to undertake more illegal actions. Rioting with the police, arson and sabotage and even planting bombs is not seen as counterproductive to the cause. The new generation of independentists have less faith in treaties and governmental promises and want to see more extensive change happening. Movements like the FLNC incorporate anti-capitalist, anti-fascist and radical environmental ideas that speak to the younger generation who are more concerned about the growing wealth gap, climate change and the rise of anti-immigration political parties. The political process is going too slow for them. It is likely that the new generation of FLNC and related groups will gain more traction in the coming months and years.


Conclusion:


After the riots on the second anniversary of the death of Yvan Colonna, Corsica seems to be headed towards a new chapter of independence movement radicals taking their cause to the streets and away from the parliamentary negotiations. With the FLNC rejecting the talks on autonomy between Corsican authorities and the central government, Corsica will likely see an increase in violent activities by the FLNC as it ultimately strives for independence from France. Violence will target mainly governmental and police buildings but also tourism related areas and non-native second houses. Moreover, it is uncertain whether Corsica will be effectively granted autonomy from the government as it remains a contentious issue and many politicians are opposed to any compromise on the unity of the Republic. 



 

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