The mention of the dispute between Argentina and the UK regarding the Malvinas Islands included in the closing statement of the EU-CELAC summit is still reverberating across both governments, with Argentine president Alberto Fernández saying Thursday it was a “historical diplomatic triumph” and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling the decision a “regrettable choice of words.” There was even a Twitter clash between both country’s Foreign Affairs ministers.
“It is a huge accomplishment. Not only for the European Union to mention the Malvinas issue for the first time, but also because it installs the dispute as a regional issue, insofar it is a case dealing with decolonization,” Guillermo Carmona, Malvinas, Antarctica and Southern Atlantic Secretary of the Argentina government tells the Herald referencing the importance of the event.
“Regarding the question of sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas / Falkland Islands, the European Union took note of CELAC’s historical position based on the importance of dialogue and respect for international law in the peaceful solution of disputes,” reads the critical point 13 of the statement released following the two-day summit this week in Brussels between leaders of the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC, for its Spanish initials.)
The UK refers to them as the Falkland Islands, but this name is strongly contested by Argentina.
For Carmona, the mentioning is important because it allows Argentina to visualize the case and keep the Malvinas issue present, while it continues to petition that negotiations regarding the islands sovereignty with the UK be reopened. In the secretary’s telling, the diplomatic efforts to obtain this declaration have been going on for a number of years, starting with a pivotal event that paved the way for what ended up happening this week.
What is the significance of the EU’s mentioning of Malvinas?
It is an important step, a huge accomplishment for the country and the region. Not only because the European Union mentioned Malvinas for the first time, but also because its acknowledgment of CELAC’s position places the islands in the bi-regional agenda and cements it as a multilateral issue for the region insofar it is a case of decolonization. Its significance lies not only in point 13, where it mentions Malvinas, but also in the previous paragraph, where the EU notes that the CELAC has declared “Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.” This is in line with Argentina’s request that the Malvinas area be demilitarized.
How were Argentina and the CELAC countries able to include this in the summit’s final statement?
The diplomatic efforts have been going on for a long time. When we started hearing about Brexit and the possibility that the United Kingdom might eventually leave the European Union in 2016, we viewed it as an opportunity. The EU had always been hesitant to speak about Malvinas, given that it was considered an overseas territory of theirs. When the UK left the bloc in 2020, Malvinas effectively ceased to belong to the EU, but its authorities had never made any public reference to this fact. Our Foreign Affairs Ministry took note of this and started to explore alternatives as to how this issue could be approached.
Was the end goal that this summit include a reference to Malvinas?
The diplomatic efforts of the President and the Foreign Affairs Minister have been ongoing, and there have been a couple of previous accomplishments, although none as significant as this one. In the final statement of the European-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EUROLAT), in April 2022, there was a call for Argentina and the UK to reopen talks regarding the issue of Malvinas. In June of last year, the European Union-Argentina Mixt Commission also included a reference where the EU noted Argentina’s position regarding Malvinas, “based on the importance of dialogue and respect for international law in the peaceful solution of disputes.”
Moving forward, what are the expectations regarding what could come from this?
Our hope is to deepen our conversations with the EU on Malvinas, and that the bloc and the European countries acknowledge that there is a sovereignty dispute with the UK regarding the islands. The end goal is to reopen discussions with the United Kingdom, and we hope that the EU will join the call for this to happen.
What is Argentina proposing the UK regarding Malvinas?
In March of this year, Foreign Affairs Minister Santiago Cafiero met with his British counterpart James Cleverly, on the margins of the G20 meeting in Japan. Cafiero handed Cleverly a list of the topics Argentina would want to discuss in a reopening of talks on Malvinas. Aside from the question of sovereignty of Malvinas Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands, there are 4 main issues: the establishment of air and sea connections between the island and continental Argentina, that island inhabitants can access cultural, economic and educational resources in Argentina, measures tending to use and preserve natural resources in the area, and the demilitarization of the area. Regarding the islanders, Argentina is known for its openness to migration and embrace of other cultures and nationalities. Our constitutional framework is pretty solid in that regard, so I wouldn’t be worried about any potential conflicts
Although the UK refers to the territory as the “Falklands Islands,” Argentina strongly contests this name. The Buenos Aires Herald refers to the islands as the Malvinas Islands.