Groups seeking change

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The Independent Online
BASTIA - In regional elections last year, Corsican nationalists took 23 per cent of the vote on the island, writes Julian Nundy.

The main beneficiary was Corsica Nazione, a coalition including the Verdi Corsi, the ecologist party, the autonomy-seeking Union of the Corsican People (UPC), and the separatist Cuncolta Naziunalista.

Edmond Simeoni, leader of the 1975 Aleria operation and now a member of the ecologist group, is the president of Corsica Nazione. The umbrella organisation's professed aim is to bring together all nationalist groups.

Many nationalists, however, dismiss this as hopeless idealism saying this would mean a coalition stretching from the extreme left to the extreme right, and groups with guerrilla connections rubbing shoulders with avowedly pacifist organisations.

The two main guerrilla groups are the two branches of the banned FLNC, the Canal Historique and the Canal Habituel. The former is said to be close to the legal Cuncolta Naziunalista while the latter is said to be close to the legal Movement for Self- Determination.

Vincent Stagnara, one of Cuncolta's four national secretaries, said this week that his organisation supported the FLNC-Canal Historique but had no formal links. 'The FLNC has not made many errors,' he said, explaining that the Cuncolta was usually prepared to give the illegal group its 'political support'.

Mr Stagnara said he had no knowledge of guerrilla plans for the near future. Lower- placed Cuncolta militants were less coy about links with the FLNC-Canal Historique, saying they believed its next priority was to deal with the growing organised crime on the island. Murders of crooks, particularly drug dealers, form part of regularly dispensed Corsican revolutionary justice.

Mr Stagnara said he believed that divisions within the nationalist movement over the murder of Robert Sozzi in June would not lead to increased violence unless the French secret services decided to provoke trouble.

Among the establishment politicians on the island, by far the most intriguing is Emile Zuccarelli, mayor of Bastia and a minister in the French Socialist government voted out of office in parliamentary elections in March. Despite a huge swing to the right, Mr Zuccarelli, a member of the small, left- wing Radicals' Movement, was handsomely re-elected to the National Assembly.

Mr Zuccarelli was a fervent opponent of the Socialist government's plan to give Corsica more autonomy in 1991, He particularly objected to a reference to 'the Corsican people' in its first article. This point was struck out by the Constitutional Council, which rules on the constitutionality of all new French legislation. It rejected the notion that one nation, France, could have more than one people.

Yves Stella, former FLNC spokesman, described Mr Zuccarelli as a 'Jacobin Republican, from the Age of the Enlightenment' and as 'an anti-demagogue'. He was a man, he said, who could have 'a historic responsibility'. 'If he were to make a step towards the nationalists, he could be the man to bring the Corsicans together.'