The Front’s imprint in the Simeonist ranks

Corsican Nationalism is traditionally presented as composed of a current resulting from the FLNC and known as « radical », and of a « moderate » movement, heir to the legalist autonomist movement, historically hostile to the underground struggle. The divide no longer exists as regards the means of action – the armed struggle having been abandoned in 2014 – but remains real in the stated political objectives: Independence or Self-determination for the « Radicals », l ‘Autonomy for others. On the other hand, the ranks of the Simeonist current are hybrid: many former militants of the Flnc are also found in the “moderate” movement and in its main formation, Femu a Corsica.

The recomposition underway has been masked, in recent years, by the identity of the leaders of the two long most important formations of the nationalist movement. Regarding Femu a Corsica, this movement is all the more emblematic of the “moderate” wing as its leader is the son of Edmond Simeoni, co-founder of the autonomist and legalist current. Facing Gilles Simeoni, the main leader of Corsica Libera, Jean-Guy Talamoni, is for his part representative of the independence movement. Since his youth in the 1970s, he has been an activist in successive public organizations – many of them dissolved by the State – which, from the Cumitati pà a salvezza di a Nazioni, to the Ccn, the Muvimentu corsu pà the Autodeterminazioni and the Cuncolta Naziunalista,have been the legal showcase of the FLNC since its creation. 

Archive: conférence de presse du FLNC
Beyond these two figureheads, porosity, in terms of the composition of their movements, has been anchored for two decades. At the start of the 1980s and when the leadership was in the hands of the « radical » current, the opposite dynamic had started: activists close to Edmond Simeoni, such as Marcel Lorenzoni and Dumè Bianchi, had joined the ranks. illegals after their imprisonment in the Bastelica-Fesch Affair, as they themselves had the opportunity to specify. Conversely, many former members of the FLNC have joined the moderate ranks since the beginning of the 2000s, after the clashes between the various underground factions which bloodied the decade 90. Consecrating the status of leadership then taken by the moderate current ,the process of rallying ex-militants of the “Front” to the opposing wing has been amplified since 2014. On that date, the official end of the armed struggle has in fact made the cleavage between the two so-called movements less clear-cut, in the nationalist terminology of Generation 70, « reformist » for the autonomist wing, and « revolutionary » for the current which demanded the use of armed struggle in order to obtain the right to Self-determination, beyond a statute of autonomy considered too restrictive.for the current which claimed the recourse to the armed struggle in order to obtain the right to Self-determination, beyond a statute of autonomy considered too restrictive.for the current which claimed the recourse to the armed struggle in order to obtain the right to Self-determination, beyond a statute of autonomy considered too restrictive.
De gauche à droite : Jean-Félix Acquaviva, Gilles Simeoni, Emile Zuccarelli et Emmanuel Macron

During the recent Territorial Campaign, the representatives of the outgoing Majority were publicly questioned, as to the current state of the National Movement and its political objectives, by seven historic militants, former members of the Aleria commando or pioneer members, even responsible, of the FLNC of the first years. In addition, a new underground movement, the Flnc Maghju 21 – which did not mark its birth with armed action – delivered a very critical analysis of the results of the outgoing Majority and of the implosion of the nationalist union list. . Shortly after the appearance of this « new Front », an unprecedented initiative consisting of a joint communiqué to the Flnc-Union des Combattants and Flnc of 22 October – two structures that have appeared sporadically in recent years,without however advocating the revival of the armed struggle – denounced « electoralism » plaguing the Nationalist Movement in their eyes. On September 2, a new text common to the two Flnc mentioned the possibility of a resumption of the armed struggle and specifically addressed strong criticisms to Gilles Simeoni, accusing him of having created a new clanism.

Some supporters of the President of the Executive, annoyed by media analyzes or from social networks and claiming to be heirs of the « Front », recalled that the leader of Femu a Corsica, President of the territorial Executive, has support important among the former underground militants … If such support may seem sour to some of its new supporters and to observers from outside the island, it is in fact in the Corsican nationalist world, considered by many as a pledge of historical legitimacy , the armed struggle remaining seen as the means which in fact allowed many political advances, including the creation of a Corsican Public Audiovisual Service – the island television news having been attached to France 3 Marseille, before the attacks against its structures – and the implementation,via the granting of a new statute, of the Corsican Assembly, then of the Territorial Collectivity.

Emblematic rallies 

As for the evocation of former FLNC supporters to Gilles Simeoni, it does not constitute an untruth. If some ex-clandestines gravitating in his entourage turn out to be little known to the general public, this is not the case on the other hand with two historical militants of the Front who are mentioned with the most insistence as rallied to the movement of the President of the Corsican Assembly: these are Bernard Pantalacci and Pantaléon Alessandri, who were imprisoned and convicted for having executed two of Guy Orsoni’s assassins, during the resounding Ajaccio prison case in 1984. Before this Eventually, Pantaléon Alessandri had already been imprisoned in 1978 for his participation in the FLNC. He was notably accused of having been to Lebanon to find an arms channel and acquire military training in a Palestinian camp.Bernard Pantalacci had for his part been imprisoned for the first time, in 1979, for an attack in Bastia.

In fact, Pantaléon Alessandri, like Bernard Pantalacci, are not members of Femu a Corsica, nor linked to it by various functions, of a political, administrative or associative nature. Their adherence to the Simeonist current is postulated by some in view of the profile of their most direct relatives, whose public display for this movement would be the implicit proof of their support, according to island cultural codes, given family relations in Corsica and the personality of the activists concerned, who would have made known their own commitment, if it had been different. 

Thanks from Gilles Simeoni 

Bernard Pantalacci’s wife, Muriel, is an activist of Femu a Corsica and was on the Simeonist list in the 2015 territorial elections. She was not elected, but was one of the few members of Femu a Corsica whose support was expressly recalled by Gilles Simeoni, in his first speech to the Corsican Assembly after his election this year. As for Pantaléon Alessandri’s son, he for his part held the position of Attaché, then Secretary General of Gilles Simeoni’s group at the Cdc. Since 2020, he has been Chief of Staff to the President of the CAB, the Bastia Agglomeration Community, the majority of which is Simeonist.

Archive: Bernard Pantalacci, Pantaléon Alessandri et Pierre Albertini (1984)

The other case, female, of a historic nationalist activist who rallied to the moderate wing and who was not in the movement of Edmond Simeoni in her youth, but close to the FLNC since the days of the CCN, at the beginning from the 80s, it’s Christine Colonna, Yvan’s sister. She was elected in 2015 to the Corsican Assembly on the contingent of Gilles Simeoni, as part of the nationalist union list. She is no longer elected but in 2019 became President of the Femu a Corsica movement, during its first statutory General Assembly. However, her commitment does not mean that Yvan Colonna is in the same positions as her. She is older than her brother and has always had, since her youth, a militant life of her own, independent of the choices he has made. On the other hand,she had the opportunity to get closer to Gilles Simeoni in relation to the imprisonment of his brother, whose leader of Femu a Corsica was the lawyer in 2009.

Radical and moderate in the face of the Erignac affair 

The most direct relatives of the two other activists sentenced to life imprisonment for  the assassination of Prefect Erignac, Alain Ferrandi and Pierre Alessandri, did not join either Femu a Corsica or Corsica Libera. The son of Alain Ferrandi, who had occupied the Prefecture of Aiacciu in February 2021 to denounce the prison situation of the members of the Erignac commando, refused with his comrades, after their violent expulsion from the Palais Lantivy, to participate in a videoconference, with the elected members of the Corsican Assembly.

Unlike Jean-Guy Talamoni, Gilles Simeoni has, for his part, regularly attended, since 2016, ceremonies in tribute to Claude Erignac organized at the scene of his assassination. The prefect Franck Robine had even greeted his presence in 2020. An unprecedented symbolic act, all the more noticed given the systematic absence at these ceremonies of the leader of Corsica Libera, even if he had denounced at the time of the assassination of the prefect this attack, to which the FLNC was foreign. His refusal to participate in the ceremonies in homage to Claude Erignac emblematically confirmed the reality of the cleavage still opposing the two currents of Island Nationalism as regards relations with the State.

Gilles Simeoni serrant la main de Franck Robine, ancien préfet de Corse, lors de la Cérémonie en mémoire de Claude Erignac, en 2020

Other historical activists of the FLNC for their part have completely switched to the moderate camp. This is the case of Léo Battesti, who was the first member of the FLNC to publicly claim his membership in the underground organization. In 1978, he had removed his balaclava during a press conference, while he was wanted following an attack. His adherence to the Simeonist theses had been known to all when he wished, in 2017, to be a candidate for  Femu a Corsica in legislative elections. However, he had had to give it up, following strong criticism, inside and outside the movement, by his candidacy. At issue: his long years of estrangement from any nationalist activism, including moderate ones. In the 90s, he had been a militant of the MPA, created by Alain Orsoni, and which was the legal showcase of the FLNC  Canal Habituel , self-dissolved in 1997. The MPA disappeared in 1999.

It is in fact in Bastia and Haute Corse, more than in the south of the island, that former militants of the FLNC are present today in the Simeonist ranks. If this is the case of some who belonged in the 90s to the movement of the FLNC Canal  Historique , the most obvious rallying comes from members of the usual FLNC  Canal  and the MPA. Their « enemy brothers » of the time have remained closer to  Corsica Libera  until today. This is also the case, in the South of the island, of a fringe of early activists of the FLNC of the 1970s. Among them, Saveriu Valentini, also a major cultural actor of Riacquistu, who was on the list. by Jean-Guy Talamoni in the last territorial elections.  

Recomposition of the « radical » current

Outside Bastia, an activist who was linked to the Flnc  Canal Historique,  Paul Quastana, former Corsica  Nazioni  territorial advisor  and negotiator  of the Matignon Accords  with Jean-Guy Talamoni, joined the list of  Core in Fronte  in the last elections. . He now sits under the colors of this organization in the Corsican Assembly. Paul-Félix Benedetti, leader of  Core in Fronte , had been, like his parents, a member of  the Accolta Naziunale Corsa (ANC), founded in 1989 by Pierrot Poggioli, one of the first leaders of the FLNC, breaking ban with this organization from the end of the 1980s, in relation to ideological differences concerning social struggles, but also by report to abuses that he has publicly denounced. Pierrot Poggioli was one of the seven activists who signed this year the critical letter to elected officials, which called for a nationalist vote but did not give voting instructions for a particular movement. Co-founder of the FLNC, Nanou Battestini was also one of the signatories of the letter. Unlike him, his daughter Serena had joined Gilles Simeoni’s movement, but she left it a few months before the last Territorials to join  Core in FronteShe was also elected to the list of this organization. Another historical figure of the original FLNC, Matteu Filidori, who had read the declaration of the underground movement during the first collective trial in 1979, took part in the Core in  Fronte Campaign

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While Corsica Libera no longer has much visibility in the Corsican Assembly – with only one representative, Josépha Giacometti, elected on the same list as Jean-Christophe Angelini, belonging to the « moderate » current – it is today Core in Fronte, the formation of Paul-Félix Benedetti, who embodies the “radical” current in the hemicycle. While Angelini and the elected members of her contingent did not participate in the vote which led to the election of Nanette Maupertuis, from Femu a Corsica, to the Presidency of the Assembly of Corsica, the representative of Corsica Libera did not was not abstained, opting however for a blank vote. It is a first break, symbolic, with his running mates, which opens questions about the rest of his career at the CDC. It also emphasizes its isolation,as well as the ambiguity of his place and therefore that of the organization of Jean-Guy Talamoni, within a “group” of elected officials belonging to the moderate movement, historically antithetical to his current! The list of union Avanzemu pè a Corsica, set up by the PNC of Angelini and Corsica Libera, but with a very marginal place given to the latter formation, in fact consecrated the decline of this historic wing of the « radical » movement. », Which disappeared as a group on the institutional scene.has in fact consecrated the decline of this historic wing of the « radical » movement, which has disappeared as a group on the institutional scene.has in fact consecrated the decline of this historic wing of the « radical » movement, which has disappeared as a group on the institutional scene.

Gilles simeoni et Pascal Lelarge

Simeonist monopoly 

Regarding Gilles Simeoni’s Movement, on the other hand, it has never been so strong in the Corsican Assembly, in terms of the number of elected representatives, and he trustees the two Presidencies there for the first time. At the same time, he has in front of him a nationalist opposition which has recomposed and is more dynamic, even if it remains marginal in the spans. A closer look, only one elected member of this opposition, Paul Quastana, comes from the movement of the FLNC, but he does not have the eminent status that had in the Assembly, since 2014, Jean-Guy Talamoni, who came of the same current as him but who was President of the institution. It is therefore undeniably the end of an era. The new act enshrines the overwhelming leadership of moderates and Simeonists in the nationalist camp and in the island power field, nearly half a century after the smashing entry,in the Corsican Assembly, in 1984, of the first nationalist group claiming its solidarity with the armed struggle and which then began to rise in the face of the moderate current, which entered the Assembly in 1982 which had just been born.

Unprecedented nationalist victory

In terms of votes, the Nationalists’ victory in the last Territorials was even greater in 2021 than in 2015 and 2017. Nearly 93,000 islanders voted for this political family. It is a historical record for a local movement, whatever its color. At the same time, the very potency of this victory can prove problematic. If it does not lead to an institutional change, this could provoke a resumption of armed action, mentioned in September, during the last joint press conference of the FLNC-UC and Flnc on 22 October. The situation would then become very complicated to manage for the Territorial Majority. Gilles Simeoni knows this well and for a while tried to defuse tensions, before the situation crystallized around the Corsica Ferries case.

An article in Le Monde published on October 25, reported a meeting in mid-September, little noise, with Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, aimed at getting out of the institutional blockage. A second interview, with Prime Minister Jean Castex, took place on October 27. A new meeting would have taken place on December 3, this time with Jacqueline Gourault, Minister of Territorial Cohesion and Relations with Local Authorities. Under discussion in particular: the payment by the State of half of the debt to Corsica Ferries. 

To continue to federate, moving the lines seems to become little by little a necessity for the President of the Executive of Corsica. But its situation of political monopoly, unique in the history of the Corsican Assembly and in contemporary island political life, now restricts its ability to be heard by certain opponents, unlike in the past. If he has managed, since 2014, to rally many activists of the old radical movement, the new is restructuring in a more offensive way against him and the form of power that he has put in place. As the shadow of the FLNC resurfaces more emphatically than ever, uncertain times seem to await the leader of the moderate wing, although paradoxically he has never been so powerful.

Gilles Simeoni à l’Assemblée de Corse

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