May 25, 2013
Far away and long ago?
Be careful what you wish for because it might come true, they say — within five days of demanding dialogue from Britain over the Malvinas islands, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner obtained it at Mexico’s G20 summit but Tuesday’s interchange with British Prime Minister David Cameron could hardly have been more sterile. Cameron delivered the message that next year’s island referendum on their link to Britain was the last word on sovereignty (apparently a prior pledge to the islanders) while CFK tried to hand him a list of United Nations resolutions urging sovereignty talks which Cameron spurned with the same disdain shown by the Argentine side at the UN last Thursday when Kelper spokesmen presented a written proposal of concrete talks on specific issues like oil and fisheries co-operation. Yet dialogue with Britain only has a future when Argentina can put something on the negotiating-table, thinking out of the box to offer a “win-win situation” (one of CFK’s few forays into the English language) with South Atlantic resources rather than a zero sum game. The same applies to Cameron — if the islanders only want to talk specifics, then Britain should offer some beneficial business deal (to remedy any of Argentina’s various infrastructural shortfalls as so often in the last two centuries) instead of the stuck record of self-determination.
Yet it would be wrong to conclude that the G20 summit or even CFK’s role there revolved around two small islands. Apart from Cameron, there were far more extended presidential contacts with Russia’s Vladimir Putin (seeking to bring Gazprom aboard reversing Argentina’s energy deficit) and China’s Hu Jintao (celebrating bilateral trade levels on a day Once shops were lowering their blinds to protest the lack of cheap Chinese and other imports), apart from a largely introductory encounter with her brand-new French colleague François Hollande. As for the summit’s main agenda, overwhelmingly the global financial crisis, CFK was a marginal figure throughout who ended up on both a winning and losing side. She found it all too easy to join the G20 mainstream urging Europe to expand rather than save its way out of crisis (virtually no politician will verbally favour austerity, emerging markets only know growth and United States President Barack Obama wants re-election) yet the summit’s closing statement against protectionist temptations was an implied reproach of Argentina.
But, as so often happens, domestic upheavals are already consigning the G20 summit to rapid oblivion in the presidential mind at least.