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Shifting Tides: Europe's Evolving Stance on the Falklands

Photo: BBC

  • Why did the EU-CELAC conference cause diplomatic tensions between the EU, UK, and Argentina? 

During the EU (European Union) and CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Summit, the EU backed an Argentinean-based declaration referring to the Falkland Islands as Islas Malvinas. All 27 EU countries and CELAC members, except Nicaragua, agreed on the declaration. British diplomats asked Charles Michel, the European Council president, to clarify the situation, but these efforts were unsuccessful. Instead, other EU officials have said that if the UK wanted a say, they should not have left the European Union. On the other hand, Argentina sees this as a diplomatic victory. It hopes to push the EU to further talk about the Falkland sovereignty. The UK’s foreign secretary, James Cleverly, has asked Brussels to remove the Falkland Islands from any future declaration with CELAC. The European External Action Service spokesman, Peter Spano, has clarified that without a council mandate, the EU has changed its neutrality stance on Falkland/Malvinas dispute.

  • What is the Falkland Islands dispute? 

The Falkland Islands have had a history of sovereignty issues in the past that have persisted to the present. The Falklands are located in the South Atlantic Sea, 300 miles (480 kilometers) east of mainland Argentina. Argentina claims they are the sovereign of the Falklands because they used to be Spanish lands, so when declaring independence in 1816, they became Argentinean lands. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom claims there were no settlements when arriving in 1766 and that they had complete control of the islands dating back to that year. Both stances have historically been unchanged, yet only worsened with the rise of Argentina’s military junta in the early 1980s. Considering the massive power issues the junta faced in 1982, they decided to invade the Falklands. The UK responded with its navy leading to a 74-day war, concluding the Falklands War. This war proved disastrous as it was the junta’s last hope in retaining power. Afterward, a new democratic government emerged in Argentina, but their ambitions for the Falklands did not fade away. 

  • Why is it significant for the EU to address the Falkland Islands as “Islas Malvinas” for the first time? 

The EU’s decision was significant because by referring to the Falkland Islands as “Islas Malvinas,” the EU is sending a message that it is sympathetic to Argentina’s claims to the islands. On the other hand, this undermines the UK’s sovereignty. What this will do is further strain EU-UK relations. The EU’s neutrality stance is compromised, so being attentive to EU-Argentina relations in the future is essential. Overall, Argentina is the biggest beneficiary of this situation. By having recognition of their grievances by all EU members, it gives legitimacy to their claims. This small change could lead to more pressure from the EU for the UK to renegotiate the Falkland Islands' sovereignty. At least, that is Argentina’s hope. 

  • Do residents on the islands feel more British or Argentinean? 

An overwhelming majority of people on the island feel British. In a 2013 referendum, 99.8% of the islanders voted to remain British. Considering most residents are British descendants, this high percentage is understandable. Even if there were significant efforts to switch sovereign states, the approximately 3,000 residents' opinions matter. If Argentina wants to be one day successful in acquiring the Falkland Islands, it will need to convince the residents on the island to become Argentinian. Otherwise, the forceful revocation of self-determination from the islands’ residents would be undiplomatic. 


Image: NPR

  • Why has Argentina continued to claim the Falkland Islands, despite having no control over the island? 

Officially, Argentina claims that they continue to claim the Falkland Islands because it is a historical claim which contributes to Argentinean national identity and unity, as the nation is trying to recover their land. While simplistic, there are more reasons why the Argentinean government persists that the islands are theirs. Throughout its history, Argentina has been economically unstable. In 1982, the primary reason for the military junta invading the Falklands was to gain popular support for the regime as it was morally and economically bankrupt. Economically, Argentina’s economy still struggles today as the current annual inflation rate in Argentina is 114%. Since Argentina has had a history of inflation, Argentinean politicians most likely use the Falklands dispute to distract the citizenry from economic issues. By shifting the voters’ focus, there are better chances for reelection for current governmental officials. Another real possibility is the oil reserves that are near the islands. If Argentina has better access to the South Atlantic via the Falklands, Argentina may be able to gain a substantial source of income that can positively alter its overall economy. Therefore, Argentina has more underlying interests in the Falklands than only defending its “historical claims.”

  • What does the international community think about the islands? 

The international community has divided opinions about who is the rightful sovereign of the islands. For one, the Western world has supported the UK’s claim to the Falklands. Contrarily, all of Latin America sides with Argentina’s claims. When one considers the UK as a fundamental state in the Western world, it becomes clear why the Western world would side with the UK on this issue. Latin America sides with Argentina because of the region’s solidarity against imperialism, seeing Britain in this light. The EU-CELAC Summit broke this dynamic as more Western countries became more sympathetic to Argentina’s grievances. Therefore, any future developments that involve EU countries addressing the Falkland Islands will be crucial to this dispute. 


The EU-CELAC Conference demonstrates that merely referring to the Falkland Islands as “Islas Malvinas” can cause enormous diplomatic tension. However, creating even more tension between the UK and Argentina will not create any meaningful settlement to their dispute. It is vital for more diplomatic efforts between these countries to occur. More constructive dialogue, respecting Falkeners' rights, and exploring compromise solutions are some ways that will aid a diplomatic solution. Even involving more neutral, third-party mediators might make both parties less hesitant to accept terms. Ultimately, more cooperation, which has been weak in the past, will solve the dispute effectively. 

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