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Revue de presse - - Armed separatists and ecologists unite against fears of a paradise lost

Le 26 janvier 2009 : (13:00 Unità Naziunale, - Corse - Lutte de Masse)  In the hills above southern Corsica's paradise beaches, Vincente Cucchi sat stoking the log fire of her restored shepherd's cottage.

"There have been a lot of murders lately, a lot of score settling, it's becoming worse than Naples," she said. "But I'm not scared, you just have to carry on."

Cucchi, a Corsican mother in her forties, is leading an environmental crusade to protect the wild coastline around Bonifacio on the island's southern tip. She targets everyone from locals to Nicolas Sarkozy's Parisian friends, and goes to court to ban villas that illegally destroy virgin stretches of coast. Her latest victory was to scrap the proposed holiday home of Jacques Séguéla, the publicist who introduced France's president to Carla Bruni.

Fighting to defend the law is not easy on a Mediterranean island where clans, mafia godfathers and armed separatists crisscross in a nebulous atmosphere of omertà (code of silence), clientelism and protection rackets, and where property speculation is the fast money earner.

Corsica is reeling from a spate of murders of crime barons. Cucchi's husband, a fisherman, has had his boat sunk, and she has received death threats. Locals call her brave. "Frankly, we have no choice but to act fast to stop Corsica becoming 'paradise lost'," she said.

But the fight to protect the so-called Island of Beauty has taken on a new fervour in recent weeks, reaching the top of Paris's political class and Sarkozy's jet-set friends. Corsica, 100 miles south of the French coast, is one of the last remaining unspoiled corner of the western Mediterranean. Due to France's stringent coastal protection measures and the spectre of violent separatism, the mountainous island still boasts large expanses of coastline that have been spared mass construction. Now the Corsican executive, headed by a member of Sarkozy's ruling centre-right party, has proposed a new 20-year development plan to boost the island's economy, which will declassify stretches of protected land to allow for more building. Environmental groups warn that Corsica risks repeating the concrete nightmare of Majorca or France's Côte d'Azur.

The plan, known by its acronym Padduc, has spawned a movement called the anti-Padduc front, made up of 80 different groups including trade unions and ecologists. The row has also boosted the island's nationalist and separatist cause. This weekend, Corsican hardline nationalists will launch their new political party, Corsica Libera. They oppose building developments which, they say, threatens the island's national identity.

This month, one of Corsica's main armed separatist groups, the FLNC-UC, issued its strongest statement in which it made death threats against the island's ruling political class, warned against the building plans and laid claim to 14 bomb attacks over the last six months.

In the low-level separatist violence that has simmered on the island for 30 years, empty holiday homes have been sporadically targeted with homemade bombs. While tourists are welcome, mainland French "foreigners" acquiring land are not.

Above one of Porto-Vecchio's bays, a bus of gendarmes sat guarding the entrance to the holiday villa of one of Sarkozy's best friends, Christian Clavier. Last month 10 Corsican nationalists were fined after dozens of pro-independence supporters broke into the actor's garden and "occupied" the area around his swimming pool to protest against the proliferation of outsiders' holiday homes. The island's police chief was sacked for not preventing the occupation. Those convicted are appealing against their fine, but the case dossier has been mysteriously stolen from the courthouse.

Below the villa, Santa Giulia bay is an example of the dense tourist building on the southern coast that campaigners say must not be allowed to spread to protected areas elsewhere. Rows of luxurious villas, bungalows and snack bars sit empty in what locals call a tourist "ghost town". The area is only active for two months of the year but has forced up prices. In the Bonifacio region, more than half of all residences are second homes empty for most of the year.

"It is harder and harder for Corsicans to live in their own villages, this is catastrophic, it's threatening the very Corsican people as they are forced to move off the island," said Jean-Guy Talamoni, the leading nationalist politician who led the Clavier occupation.

Despite Corsica's reputation as an upmarket destination, the island is one of the poorest regions in France, with an aging population kept afloat by the French state. Tourism brings in €1.3bn (£1.2bn) each year, but 10% of islanders live on precariously low incomes.

"We definitely need some kind plan for developing the island's economy," said Moune Poli, a member of Corsica's economic advisory committee and key figure of the anti-Padduc front. "But the island cannot depend on unfettered tourism and building speculation." The economic committee opposed the Padduc plan, which will now go before the Corsican assembly in March.

Ange Santini, the head of the Corsican executive, argued his plan would simply open Corsica to investment and clarify its coastal laws. He has said only 10% of "remarkable" protected spaces would become available for development. Opponents said the figure was higher and could prompt wider property speculation.

In Porto-Vecchio, Gerard Bonchristiani, a former fisherman, campaigns for access to public beaches and coastal protection. He said: "Intelligent tourism is about balance, not turning an island's coast into a concrete 'tanning drome'. This is about what kind of society we want to live in. There is a visceral attachment to the land here. We like to say: 'You don't live in Corsica, Corsica lives in you.'"

Angelique Chrisafis in Porto-Vecchio (Source Article ici)

Dossier Spéculation sur Unità Naziunale : Lire le dossier ici
Source photo : Unità Naziunale, Archives du site.
Source info :  Unità Naziunale


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