Thousands of Corsicans Demanded Greater Autonomy from France

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French President Emmanuel Macron visits Toyota's automobile manufacturing plant in Valenciennes-Onnaing on January 22, 2018 in Valenciennes, France.

Macron's two-day visit to Corsica is being closely watched on the mainland, where some fear that giving the Mediterranean island too much autonomy could fuel a breakaway bid in the future.

Addressing them, Macron offered to add a special mention of Corsica into the French constitution, but gave little ground on other key demands including recognition for the local language. "I want everyone in the [French] Republic to be able to claim their identity, their specificity".

Prior to becoming part of France in the 18th century, Corsica, birthplace of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, was ruled for centuries by the Republic of Genoa in what is now Italy. Neither man applauded at the end of the speech.

"It's a sad night for Corsica", said Talamoni, saying he was "dismayed by the level of responses" given by Macron.

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The nationalists, who cemented their control of Corsica's regional assembly in December elections, have denied any plans to try to take the territory of 330,000 people out of France - at least for the time being.

"Though Macron is now implementing a reform that will allow regions to adjust the general law to make it more applicable for their specific needs, Corsica would like to go even further by having a special provision added to the French constitution based on Article 74, which is dedicated to French overseas territories, the lawmaker explained".

Macron will start his visit by paying tribute to the late prefect Claude Erignac, who was shot dead on the island 20 years ago by pro-independence activists.

The mountainous island has enjoyed stability since 2014 when the separatist National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) called a ceasefire.

Erignac was gunned down on February 6, 1998 while on his way to a concert with his wife.

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