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French separatists want Scots to say 'yes'

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French separatists want Scots to say 'yes'
People hold Occitan (l), Breton (c), Corsican (up) and Basque flags at a 2001 meeting of regionalists protesting after the shooting of a Corsican nationalist. Photo: Francois Gabrielli/AFP
13:02 CEST+02:00
Separatist leaders in Brittany, Corsica and the French Basque Country will watch with interest as Scotland votes on independence next week, but they don't expect France to follow the UK's lead any time soon.

Pro-independence activists point to the fact they have their own languages and cultural identities. France, however, remains a deeply centralized country and any talk of a negotiated breakaway seems little more than a pipe dream.

Despite the awareness that they almost certainly are not next in line – Catalans are likely to claim that honour – separatists in France are following closely developments on the other side of the English Channel, where London is embroiled in a last-gasp battle to keep the United Kingdom together.

“It’s a constitutional abnormality that France is the only country in Western Europe not to recognize any national identities other than a French identity,” Basque nationalist Peio Etcheverry-Ainchart told newspaper Le Parisien.

He applauded the move to hold a referendum in Scotland, which he said reflected the will of the people.

“We are in favour of a Europe based on a federation of sovereign peoples,” said Etcheverry-Ainchart, who serves as a politician with the left-wing Basque nationalist Abertzaleen Batasuna party.

The newspaper also spoke to Corsican and Breton politicians who shared their Basque counterpart’s frustration with what they view as French intransigence.

Yves Pelles, president of the centre-right Breton Party, praised Scotland’s “beautiful nationalism”, which he said was not predicated on a disdain for other groups. He lamented however that an independence referendum in Britanny “is not even imaginable”.

Fellow separatist Herri Gourmelen from the Democratic Breton Union was more upbeat, arguing Scotland’s vote could only be a good thing as it would highlight France’s “retrograde” stance.

In Corsica, where the separatist movement enjoys widespread support, Peter Poggioli from Corsica Libera envisaged the eventual break-up of Europe as we know it. 

“This marks the end of large nations created from small stateless nations states, such as Scotland or Corsica, which were built by destroying the language and culture and appropriating the wealth of minorities". 

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