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Mayor banned from holding council meetings in Corsican language

Article published on the 2009-05-15 Latest update 2009-05-15 15:24 TU

The car park of the police station in the commune of Aléria blown up by Corsican nationalists in 2002(Photo: AFP)

The car park of the police station in the commune of Aléria blown up by Corsican nationalists in 2002
(Photo: AFP)

The mayor of the Corsican village of Galéria has been told that he cannot hold council meetings in the Corsican language, which is closer to some Italian dialects to French. There has been long-running and often violent nationalist agitation on the Mediterranean island.

"They won't tie my hands," swore Galéria's Mayor Daniel Rossi, whose plan to hold every other council meeting in Corsican has been ruled inadmissable by the Sub-Prefect of the Haute-Corse area, Marc Démulsant.

"The French language is the language of the Republic's institutions," Démulsant declared, adding that the decision is in breach of a law passed in 1994 on the use  of the French language and article two of the French constitution.

"If this was put into practice, this proposal would not allow councillors and members of the public who do not speak Corsican to to participate fully in the debates," the Sub-Prefect said.

Rossi's plan was agreed five out of six councillors present at a meeting in April but five opposition councillors were not present. They accuse the mayor of trying to keep them out of the council's proceedings.

"He doesn't give a toss about saving the Corsican language," opposition councillor Dominique Martinès told the AFP news agency. "He just wants to stop taking part in council debates."

Martinès says that she understands Corsican but not well enough to follow complex debates.

"We would have liked to have been there when he pushed this motion through,' she says. "But he always organises meetings on a weekday morning. I have my flock of goats to look after and I can't be there at that time of day. It's the same for my colleagues."

Rossi, who describes himself as a "left-wing Gaullist", says that Démulsant has misinterpreted the law and insists that he will press on with his plan.

He says meetings will be bilingual and that a French translation will be handed to regional authorities.

"It's perfectly legal," he claims. "I can conduct marriages in Corsican  and draw up birth and death certificates in the language. I don't see why it shouldn't be the same for meetings."

The French state has an uneasy relationship with regional languages and Corsican nationalists campaign for separation from France, sometimes resorting to bombings and assassination of representatives of the state.