Argentina: more of the same from Macri's Administration

Argentina: More of the same from Macri’s administration.

President Macri promised a new approach towards the Falkland Islands as part of his policy of developing a broader-based relationship with the UK. But there is little sign of any real change in Argentine attitudes towards the Falkland Islands, even though the mood music emanating from the first bilateral meeting between UK and Argentine Foreign Ministers since 2002 may have been warmer than could ever have been possible under the Kirchners (see preceding news item).

Many of the ideas trickling out of the Macri administration seem to have echoes of the relationship with the Islands that Argentina had in the 1970s, when they provided a direct air link, shipped in essential fuel supplies, and offered medical and education services. But the Islanders will never accept that level of control again and Argentina will have to acknowledge that, if ever a new relationship is to be developed.

The mind-set of the Argentine administration remains unchanged:

* they insist that they can have no formal relationship with the Falkland Islands Government (FIG), since in their view the issue is with the UK Government as the ‘colonial power’. They ignore the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination and the constitutional developments in self-government made since 1982.

* they continue to regard the Falkland Islanders as Argentine or as foreigners living in Argentina. In their view, the ‘Malvinas’ are part of Argentina and sovereignty remains their goal. In so doing, they ignore history and the rights and wishes of the Falkland Islanders.

* they may offer a direct flight to and from Argentina. Yet this would undercut the existing weekly LAN Chile flight. Any suggestion that Argentina would allow air links between the Falkland Islands and Uruguay or Brazil would be ‘out of the question’. And there is no sign that they would allow the resumption of charter flights, which they stopped in 2003. They want to reimpose the stranglehold over air services that they once had.

At least the Macri administration is realistic in accepting that any rapprochement with the Falkland Islanders will take time and be for the long-term. The FIG is prepared to consider options for co-operation in areas where there is mutual benefit but this has to be without threat of Argentine encroachment on sovereignty – and for that Argentina will have to change its mind-set.

Note

There were no air links with the South American mainland before 1971, when the 1971 Communications Agreement (see text under Resources tab) allowed the Argentine state airline – LADE (operated by the Argentine Air Force) – to establish regular flights by amphibious aircraft between Comodoro Rivadavia and the Falklands. The Argentines were permitted to build a temporary airstrip in 1972 which enabled short-haul Fokker aircraft to operate. The UK Government subsequently built a permanent airstrip in 1976, which was opened to Argentine flights in 1979 until Argentina’s invasion (and defeat) in 1982. Every Falkland Islander travelling to Argentina by this route had to carry the much-hated ‘white card’ which seemed to them to be a quasi-Argentine passport.

The 1974 Petroleum Products Agreement (see text under Resources) effectively gave Argentina a monopoly over oil supplies to the Islands.