If oil is discovered in commercial quantities in the Falklands, a degree of cooperation with Argentina would seem to make practical sense and be in everybody's interests, said Howard Pearce the new Falkland Islands governor just a few days after taking office.
Mr. Pearce, a Foreign Office Ambassador who as a young diplomat was posted in Buenos Aires and travelled several times in the late seventies to the Islands, was asked by the Penguin News how he would envisage the growing relationship between Argentina and the Falklands he replied that "I don't think I have anything specific in mind. There are areas in which it makes sense that there should be cooperation with Argentina and some of that already exists, for example within the context of managing the straddling fishery and movement on the high seas. I don't think people here are fully satisfied with the quality of that cooperation."
However Governor Pearce insisted that at the moment he had no specific areas identified, but "it may be that within the Islands in due course there might be areas identified where Islanders feel it is in their interests to go ahead with that development of the relationship."
The economy and the new dynamism Talking about the Islands economy Mr. Pearce also underlined what he describes as the remarkable difference between the Falklands in the late seventies and now.
"This is a much more dynamic community, where activities are more diverse and there is a wider range of choice and opportunity for young people and a greater sense of security and optimism. It is quite a dramatic contrast with the late seventies". "So although there is a problem over the failure of the squid to turn up in the last fishing season, and that has certain economic consequences, I think you must view it in a longer term perspective. Let us hope it will only be a temporary knock back, but even if it is not there is now the opportunity to diversify..."
Asked if he felt elected Councillors should cut back on overseas trips due to the economic difficulties he said, "It is important that the Falklands present themselves in the world outside, because if the economy here is going to develop it is not going to develop just on the basis of what goes on in the Islands. "The Islands have to look outwards and sell their products overseas and attract tourists. To sell the Islands you have to travel."
Mr. Pearce mentioned the recently built abattoir as one of the Islands attempts to diversify the local economy and emphasized the need for government and the private sector to coordinate efforts. "Certainly I have been told that markets to export meat from the abattoir, recently certified by the European Union, do exist. I think the key point for the Falklands in this area, and in other areas where we are seeking to produce new products or enter new markets and to diversify the economy, is that what we produce here has got to be high quality, and to find a niche in the market, and there is a role here both for government and the private sector."
Finally as to his new job in the double role of responding to the Foreign Office and the Falklands government, Mr. Pearce pointed out that, "Britain has its policy on Overseas Territories and I think everybody knows what that is on the Falklands - the commitment on the part of the British government to respect the wishes of Falkland Islanders about their own future, and that is something I made absolutely clear in the speech I made last week at the swearing in ceremony."
He added, "I know what the policy is and I'm expected to get on and do the job. But I am not just a representative of the British government; I am also a spokesman for the Falkland Islands vis-a-vis the British Government. So there is a slightly schizophrenic element to the job and it is important to get the balance between those two right".
Source: Extracts from interview published in Penguin News, December 13th.