May 23, 2013
Monopoly or dialogue?
If President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner really asks for “nothing more than dialogue” over Malvinas sovereignty from Britain, then she should start gearing her rhetoric to her future negotiation partners rather than to domestic political audiences — less gesture politics and more political gestures. After Tuesday’s announcement of a 2013 island referendum on their future rule left the ball bouncing in her court, she needed to trump this stunt with an equally novel and more constructive move of her own to mark the 30th anniversary of the war’s end but Thursday’s United Nations appearance actually offered less lateral thinking than previous anniversary events (for instance, last February’s proposal of mainland links). The closest she came to a new opening was refloating the 1974 condominium proposal of a British Labour government — a “two flags” scheme even including a third flag in some subsequent variants by neutral analysts of a mediator like Canada or Spain (which would be a bold fence-mending gambit after the YPF expropriation) — but only as a historical anecdote without putting anything on the table as even a transitional step. Yet such a move would not only be an elegant exit from the political sovereignty deadlock — it also matches the new economic realities in the South Atlantic because both the fisheries and offshore oil call for joint management (without even extending to condominion) far more than sheep-farming.
Gearing her pitch to her future negotiating partners also implies bringing the islanders as well as London into the equation and here CFK fell well short. Even a clearer “two flags” proposal would still exclude the Kelpers and as it was, Cristina Kirchner was openly contemptuous, mocking a parochial mentality which prompted them to exclude “different ideas.” But if she insists on disqualifying the islanders, a more valid and less outdated line would be to highlight the new majority on the islands — the combination of a hideous climate and a per capita income of 55,000 dollars a year means that the islands are largely inhabited by usually (although not always) English-speaking transients (rather like Gulf oil sheikdoms) with the classic stereotype of a settler stretching back as far as nine generations now very much a minority.
Above all, the overkill of a presidential appearance at the UN Decolonization Committee (usually considered beneath their dignity by even middle-ranking diplomats) overlooks the fact that the logic of the South Atlantic’s new potential wealth points far more to co-operation in a globalized world than to a conflict over national sovereignty.