Argentina’s moves on the Falkland issue are getting rougher | Polarjournal
In Argentina’s southernmost city of Ushuaia, from where part of the armed forces once marched towards the Falkland Islands, the country’s claims to the Falkland Islands, known as Malvinas, are omnipresent. But the conflict over them still echoes in many ears today. Photo: Michael Wenger

In the past, Argentina has repeatedly asserted its claims in the area of the Antarctic Peninsula. Especially in economically bad times, almost every Argentine government plays the “Falkland” card and increases diplomatic and rhetorical pressure. Even now the government under Alberto Fernandez has started a new offensive, but this time with a clear roadmap.

Argentina made a diplomatic push for the “restoration of Argentinean sovereignty over the Malvinas” at various places, including the Organization of American States OAS, the United Nations Decolonization Committee (C24 group) and the European Union. The Argentine Foreign Minister, Felipe Solá, announced that this initiative was a state affair and an expression of the feelings of the Argentine people on the issue.

The map of the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows the areas in the South Atlantic Ocean and the Southern Ocean to which Argentina claims to be entitled. However, most of the islands are either under British administration or are part of the Antarctic Treaty Area, where no territorial claims are accepted. Map: Argentina’s Foreign Ministry

At its last meeting, the C24 Group, which includes a total of 29 states, once again called on the parties concerned, Argentina and the United Kingdom, to resume talks and to find a quick and peaceful solution to the dispute. The same demand is also shared internally by the OAS, but officially it is on the side of the USA and Canada, who are taking the side of Great Britain. Nevertheless, the Argentine government considers the advance in the C24 group a victory and demands talks with Great Britain. At the same time it became known that Argentina had written a letter to EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell demanding that the Falkland Islands be excluded from the negotiations on British-European trade after the Brexite. The explosive issue is that Borrell has Argentinean citizenship in addition to Spanish citizenship.

The current president Alberto Fernandéz defeated Mauricio Macri in the last election and has been president of Argentina since 2019. At the same time, former President Cristina Fernandéz de Kirchner became Vice President. Both belong to the Peronists, who also currently form the majority in parliament. Photo: Casa Rosada, CC BY 2.5 ar

The political advances in the various organizations are only one part of a new strategy of the Fernandéz government to gain the upper hand in the discussion about the status of the Falkland Islands. A further step was the revival of legal action against companies seeking oil in the waters around the Falkland Islands. In addition to fines, when these steps were first introduced by the then President Cristina Fernandéz de Kirchner in 2015, the company threatened to imprison the heads of the companies concerned if they were in Argentina. The third pillar of the Fernandéz government is the establishment of a “National Council for Malvinist Affairs” and the passing of a law which pushes the outer borders of the Argentinean shelf area into the disputed area of the Falkland Islands. In doing so, the government has given itself the legitimacy to make political advances. A third law, which provides for fines for “illegal fishing” in the new Argentinean territory, is currently under discussion.

In a vote in 2013, the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands had clearly spoken out in favour of remaining a British overseas territory. Argentina’s recent advances are therefore considered irritating by parliament. Photo: Michael Wenger

In the past, Argentina has often put the Falkland question back on the agenda when the country’s economic situation was bad. This approach culminated in 1982 in the Falklands conflict, which ultimately cost the lives of 649 Argentinians and 255 Britons. Admittedly, it can be assumed that Argentina will not resort to military means again, because the country is currently on the verge of national bankruptcy and could not even pay for such a conflict if they were strong enough militarily. On the contrary, economic and political considerations are behind the government’s rush and bear the signature of former President and current Vice-President Cristina de Fernandéz de Kirchner, who launched a similar campaign to divert attention from the economic and political problems. Argentina is currently going through one of its worst crises, not only because of the still ongoing lockdown and the high COVID numbers. Even before that, the government had to try to appease the creditors of the once richest South American country and to waive some of their claims. At the same time, they are now trying to get the economy back on track. The area around the Falkland Islands is very rich in both fishing and oil and could help to make Argentina economically more attractive for investors again.

“It is disappointing to read about the Argentine government’s plans to use this particular time (the COVID 19 pandemic, editor’s note) to announce its intention to escalate its claim to Falkland sovereignty.”

Legislative Assembly, Falkland Islands

For the Parliament of the Falkland Islands, the action of the Argentineans is an irritating and disappointing matter. In a communiqué it is written: “It is disappointing to read about the plans of the Argentine government to use this particular time (the COVID 19 pandemic, editor’s note) to announce its intention to escalate its claim to Falkland sovereignty. Parliament had intended to send its own representatives to the C24 meeting, but this was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. However, the Vice-President of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, MLA Barry Elsby, finds Argentina’s action at this time strange. “Although we do not have the opportunity to contribute to the C24 meeting this year, our convictions are firm and in the light of Argentina’s recent allegations we choose not to deal with them directly if we believe that all efforts should be directed towards saving lives rather than scoring political points”.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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