Savoy’s Long-Ignored Struggle for Self-Determination Finally Makes the Headlines, But at What Cost?
The idyllic spa resort of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains in south-eastern France is not only a tourist attraction, but also the headquarters of the Direction of Savosian Affairs [Direction aux affaires savoisiennes], which is an association founded under [French] Law no 1901, as reported on 30 August 2014 in the official Journal of the French Republic. The association, which intends to work towards the promotion and protection of Savosian interests and the territory of Savoy, has already encountered difficulties, with its chairman Fabrice Dugerdil being sentenced to 90 days of incarceration on 23 September, and France threatening to dissolve it.
The history of Savoy is defined by various political victories and defeats. On 9 June 1815, the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna signified the end of French rule over Savoy. Nevertheless, on 24 March 1860, the Convention of Turin postulated the annexation by France of the Duchy of Savoy. This annexation was officially promulgated on 14 June 1860. Furthermore, on 10 February 1947, the Paris Peace Treaty was signed, ultimately resulting in the ‘incorporation’ of the territory of Savoy to France in 1960.
The Provisional Government of the State of Savoy, a UNPO Member since June 2014, seeks to protect and defend Savoy, both on its own territory and abroad, while demanding recognition as well as citizenship for its people. Whereas the official establishment of the Direction of Savosian Affairs on 30 August 2014 gave the Savosians the right to deliver their own identity cards, passports and driving licenses, as well as to advocate for recognition at international fora, the Direction is now facing the threat of being dissolved – an announcement that came following the arrest and sentence of Fabrice Dugerdil, Minister of the Interior in the Provisional Government of the State of Savoy.
In 2013, Mr Dugerdil was arrested by French gendarmes while driving in France because his car had Savosian number plates, which are not recognised by France. When asked to identify himself, Mr Dugerdil handed over his Savosian driving license and identity card, and subsequently received a fine. Refusing to pay this fine, Mr Dugerdil was sentenced to three months of imprisonment by the municipality of Bonneville.
Before the prison sentence of Mr Dugerdil very little, if any, attention was paid to the struggle for self-determination of the people of Savoy. French as well as international media outlets have kept silent about this Alpine region striving for the right to decide on their future, despite the hotly debated topic of self-determination exploding in light of the recent Scottish and upcoming Catalan referenda. What is the lesson to be learned from the struggle of the Savoyards? That a man has to be handed an excessive sentence in order to raise the slightest awareness of his people’s struggle for self-determination? This should never be the case, still less in a country purportedly established on the foundation of universal human rights and freedoms.
The local newspapers Faucigny, Hebdo74 Bassin Genevois – Faucigny, Le Dauphine as well as Aujourd'hui en France are among the news outlets who have reported on the self-determination struggle of Savoy since the sentencing of Fabrice Dugerdil.