The issue of holiday homes on the Mediterranean island of Corsica has always been an explosive issue.
Over recent years second homes owned by wealthy Parisians and others have been targeted in a bombing campaign waged by nationalists and environmentalists protesting against the influx of property speculators.
And this week Paul Giacobbi, head of Corsica’s Executive Council, planted an incendiary device of a different kind by proposing to put limits on anyone from outside Corsica who wants to buy a house on the so-called “Island of Beauty”.
“If you can buy property as easy as chocolate on a supermarket shelf, we are headed for disaster,” Giacobbi said.
Giacobbi argues that property speculators from Paris and beyond, desperate to get their hands on land or a home on the picturesque island has skewed the property market and inflated prices that are now out of reach for ordinary Corsicans.
"I am not against foreigners"
Giacobi told The Local on Thursday it was time to take action.
“We have been studying this issue for three years. What we have found out is that half the new houses built in Corsica are second homes which is causing a real problem.
“It’s time we had some kind of regulation and asking people to live here for a certain amount of time before they are allowed to buy a property is a good way to do it and a very good way of ending property speculation in Corsica.
Giacobbi, who gave recent interview to The Local about threats made against his life, also proposed making certain parts of the island out-of-bounds for non-residents.
“We have to have a balance or you will only have very rich people who can buy homes in Corsica. I am not against rich people but it is dangerous and very unfair if local people cannot afford to buy a roof over their heads.
The leader of the Executive Council rejected that his proposal stemmed from any motives of Corsican nationalism aimed solely at antogising mainland France.
“I am not against foreigners. My family and wife come from abraod. Corsica is a land that welcomes foreigners," he said.
"People from France could come and buy land, if they want to settle here, the problem is if they want to buy land or a property just to be here for one month each year and then put our property market in great trouble.
One story for Paris another for Corsica
Giacobi did however accuse the Paris based media of double standards in the way the reaction differs when wealthy foreigners buy property in the French capital.
“When a rich foreigner, from Qatar for example buys a historic property in Paris, it’s a national drama and people claim it needs to be halted by the law, but they never say the same for Corsica," he said.
“When the heritage of this island is up for sale and someone comes in from abroad and buys 3,000 hectares, they say well Corsica is an open market,” Giacobbi adds.
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Giacobbi accepts that not everyone on the island will be pleased to hear his plans because many locals are only too happy to sell their properties to foreigners at inflated prices.
The politician accepts he expects plenty of opposition to his idea, not least from lawmakers in Paris and Brussels but he has vowed to take it forward.
“After three years studying this is issue, we can see that it really is necessary and we will discuss it with the relevant French and European authorities,” he said. “I don’t think this regulation will be against the free movement of people throughout Europe.
As expected his proposal has already been met with firm resistance.
Marie-Dominique Roustan-Lanfranchi, from the association Corse-France said: "We must stop thinking that Corsica is alone in the world.
"Why should we always be treated differently from other regions? This is an unconstitutional project contrary to the law of property, which violates equality of all before the law."