Falklands/Argentina: entrenched positions and no realistic change
Relations between the Falkland Islands and Argentina with positions so firmly entrenched, realistically are not going to change, but Gibraltar and Northern Ireland show us that very intractable situations can make progress, when there's good will on both sides and willingness to put the sovereignty issue aside.
Elected Councillor Dr. Richard Davies for a brief visit to Uruguay on his way back to the Islands, following his speech before the Decolonization Committee in New York, said it would be nice to have cooperation with Argentina on fisheries, air flights, oil, conservation, cultural affairs, areas of mutual interest but the current Argentine government attitude "is not going to help them in terms of sovereignty because that, again, entrenches our position". Davies admitted that Argentina can probably do some damage to the Falklands' economy, but "we'll live with whatever sanctions they put on us", but it will also "alienate us further, which if I was an Argentine politician would not think to be the best approach", although it could be "a useful approach for domestic reasons". "Better cooperation in fisheries is desirable, but not essential; a second flight from South America is desirable, but we have a direct air link with the UK; tearing up an oil agreement that took time and effort will have little practical effect and is another opportunity lost for cooperation", pointed out Davies. The Falklands Councillor suggested the way forward for the dispute with Argentina is to look at Gibraltar and Northern Ireland "where I was a medical student" and certainly has a lot of differences with the situation in the South Atlantic but also similarities: completely entrenched positions, impossibility to find common ground or reach agreements. However leaving aside the sovereignty dispute, a path was found, practical cooperation begun moving. "Progress is not going to be easy, it's not going to be consistent, Gibraltar has all sort of problems, but it's a start, and Northern Ireland has taken 40 years to make significant progress and it's three steps forward, two steps back", said Davies adding that "we shouldn't hang up so much of the details of the differences between us (Falklands) and Gibraltar; the situation can make progress if there's good will on both sides and a willingness to put the sovereignty issue aside for a bit". Councillor Davies also talked about relations with the Foreign Office, constitutional discussions and the self determination process the Falklands' increasingly enjoys, which the United Nations Decolonization Committee refuses to recognize, although a delisting option for the Islands' seems closer. The United Nations right to self determination for former colonies lists three basic options, integration with a UN member state, independence and free association. However, according to Councillor Davies the UN also contemplates a fourth option which can be described as a constitutional and continued link, in this case to Great Britain, with the "informed wish" of the people of that territory. This means that "if the people of the territory desire it, they should be able to continue with the status quo, but it must be an informed wish, and part of the C 24's remit is to try and educate and inform the peoples of the territories on that option". Councillor Davies explained that following on this path, "we and the Caribbean territories would argue that we have a perfectly appropriate relation with a UN member state which is neither integration nor free association, but it's the one we wish and we should be allowed to continue it". "We think the relationship with the UK not only has a constitutional richness but also involves obligations on our side. The UK looks after defence, foreign policy, some aspects of internal security and governance issues, and we have to live up to UK international obligations", said Davies. But since for the Falklands, foreign policy is the relation with Argentina, Davies underlined that "the UK engages us and talks to us about it" and regarding defence "probably we're the only Overseas Territory that actually requires it and hopefully one day will go away". Regarding more domestic affairs Davies revealed that "probably next November" a trial system of fully paid Councillors will begin to be implemented with each elected member having to make a decision. "I think with only 8 Councillors it's very difficult to have the time and to develop the expertise one needs to develop on its portfolios. I'm a GP but I need to know quite a bit about housing, UN to do my Councillor's job properly and we have a very small civil service, so I would do the job better if I could do it six days a week instead of three days a week", argued Davies.