Sarkozy in Corsica offers dialogue with nationalists

29th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

Sarkozy in Corsica offers dialogue with nationalists

PORTO VECCHIO, Corsica, Aug 28, 2007 (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy offered Tuesday to hold talks with Corsican nationalists during a visit to the Mediterranean island, but said they must recognize Corsica as part of France.

"We are ready to welcome those who want to hold open talks," Sarkozy said during his first visit to Corsica since taking office in May.

"But we must be clear: there will be no compromise," he added.

"Either we understand that Corsica is French and in that case, France will be generous and welcoming, or we do not understand and in that case, there is nothing to expect from France."

Sarkozy took aim at "mafias and racketeers" that he said were undermining the island's economic development.

"I love Corsica too much to abandon it to these mafias. We will not be weak toward racketeers, bombers and hostage-takers. We cannot compromise on the values of the republic," he said.

Corsica has been plagued by more than 30 years of low-level violence waged by separatists opposed to French rule. 

Separatist bomb attacks frequently target buildings associated with the French mainland, such as police stations, banks and post offices, as well as holiday villas owned by non-Corsicans.

With its 260,000 inhabitants, the island remains one of France's poorest regions.

Sarkozy offered to hold talks on relocating Corsican prisoners who are serving time on the mainland to the island to take into account "the pain" of families who have a member in prison.

He also said he was ready to support Corsican culture and promote the teaching of the Corsican language in schools as demanded by nationalists.

"This doesn't frighten me. You may want to speak the language of your grandparents and still be profoundly French and committed to the republic," said Sarkozy.

The president also announced that a cabinet meeting will take place in Corsica in October to underscore the government's concern with the plight of islanders.

One of the highlights of Sarkozy's trip to the island was a meeting with a restaurant owner who caused a sensation last month when he described to a local newspaper how he had been the target of an extortion ring.

Sarkozy said islanders had for too long been silent about crime rings out of a false sense of Corsican solidarity and called for this to change.

"We are determined to provoke a true cultural revolution on the island," he said.


Subject: French news

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