Corsicans vow to resist Paris’ restriction on language

Corsicans vow to resist Paris’ restriction on language

A court in Bastia ruled only French could legally be spoken in the island’s political offices

Corsicans have come out in force to denounce Thursday’s verdict banning the use of the Corsican language (known as Corsu) in parliament and other political offices after a court in the city of Bastia cited the French constitution in its decision arguing French is the only language permitted in official communications – and declaring the Assembly’s longstanding tradition of holding debates in Corsu illegal. 

A local rule affirming “the existence of a Corsican people” was also declared unconstitutional by the Bastia court, further igniting the rage of politicians fighting for autonomy for the French “territorial collectivity.” The pro-independence party Core in Fronte denounced the verdict as “shameful” in a tweet written in Corsican on Friday, while Party of the Corsican Nation head Jean-Christophe Angelini described it as “an injustice and a disgrace.”

Executive council president Gilles Simeoni and Assembly president Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis pledged to appeal the verdict “stripping Corsican parliament members of the right to speak their language during debates.” To save the Corsican language, the island must elevate it to official status alongside French, they said in a joint statement on Friday.

The verdict is the result of a lawsuit filed by Corsican prefect Amaury de Saint-Quentini, the highest-ranking official on the island, appointed by Paris. Saint-Quentini has long sided with the government against those on the island, who called the French state an “assassin” last year amid violent protests that followed the brutal attack by another prisoner on incarcerated Corsican independence hero Yvan Colonna. Colonna later died of his injuries, and the perceived need to soothe the island’s rage is credited with potentially bringing French President Emmanuel Macron to the negotiating table.

While France has long opposed granting independence to a région it insists is an integral part of France, Macron recently appeared to soften toward the idea of greater autonomy for the island. He reportedly told the Corsican parliament last month that he had no set demands for the coming constitutional reforms even as his opposition to Corsica seceding from France remained steadfast. Classified as “definitely endangered” by UNESCO, Corsu, which resembles the Italian dialect used in Tuscany, counts just 150,000 speakers between its eponymous island and the neighboring Italian island of Sardinia.

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