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France's Raffarin In Corsica To Push Autonomy Plan

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin flew to Corsica on Saturday to drum up support for his government’s bid to boost the island’s autonomy and end decades of separatist violence. The government has announced July 6 as the date for a referendum on giving Corsica greater control over energy policy, transport and the disbursement of regional aid money. If Corsica’s 191,000 voters say “yes” to the proposal, it would make the island a pioneer in the centre-right government’s plans to decentralise France and give regions more autonomy. The idea of devolving power to the regions is controversial in France, which has for centuries been governed entirely from Paris, and Raffarin has met with limited support for his plan. Raffarin’s first stop, in the northern city of Bastia, was temporarily disrupted by teachers angry at his plans to reform the national education system. They shouted anti-government slogans and were dispersed by police before the prime minister could give a planned speech. “We will not let ourselves be distracted,” Raffarin said, standing on a plastic chair. “We want Corsica to take its rightful place in a decentralised republic,” he said. Full Story

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