The French island of Corsica is in a state of turmoil after a court in the main city of Bastia banned the use of the Corsican language in parliament, based on France’s constitution.
Outrage has been sparked among Corsican pro-autonomists who believe that their rights have been violated.
The Corsican language is closely related to Italian and currently has approximately 150,000 native speakers. It is considered to be in danger of extinction by UNESCO.
Last week’s verdict ruled the Corsican assembly’s use of the language in public office is “unconstitutional” and now effectively forbidden.
The ruling follows a lawsuit upheld by the prefect of Corsica—the French central government’s highest representation on the island, and comes as French President Emmanuel Macron’s administration is in talks with island politicians with a view to granting Corsica greater autonomy.
Further to language, the court declared that local rules effectively establishing “the existence of a Corsican people” were also a violation of the constitution.
Frustrated at the decision, executive council president Gilles Simeoni and Corsican Assembly president Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis have spoken out “This decision amounts to stripping Corsican parliament members of the right to speak their language during debates.”
“Accepting this state of affairs is unthinkable for us,” they explained in a joint statement, additionally announcing a formal appeal against the ruling. They argued that the Corsican language needed to be given official status alongside French for it to survive and thrive.
A strong backlash has come from the Pro-Corsican nationalist community, and Jean-Christophe Angelini, head of the Party of the Corsican Nation took to Twitter to voice his aversion to the decision: “sounds to us like an insult”, he wrote, also calling it “an injustice and a disgrace.” Also airing views on Twitter, pro-independence party Core in Fronte tweeted in Corsican, that it considered the verdict “shameful.”
Corsica has a historically turbulent relationship with France’s central government and nationalist movements have repeatedly demanded more autonomy and even clean cut independence from France for several decades.
Last month Macron said that he had “no taboos” regarding reforming the status of Corsica, but he insisted that Corsica must remain part of France.
New negotiations between Parisian and Corsican leaders appear to have been eased by the conditional release of two men convicted of their part in the 1998 murder of Corsica’s prefect Claude Érignac, the highest-ranking French official to have ever been assassinated.