Flights & Fish – History Repeating Itself

9 Mar

On July 14th, 1999, a Joint Statement was issued by Argentina and Britain outlining a number of agreements, including air services to the Falkland Islands and enhanced co-operation over fishing.

 “1. Argentine citizens will be able to visit the Falkland Islands, on their own passports. This provision applies equally to Argentine citizens traveling by air and by sea.

2. Full support for the immediate resumption of direct scheduled civil air services Chile and the Falkland Islands, operated by Lan Chile or any other carrier agreed between the Parties. From 16 October 1999, these services will be able to take on and discharge passengers, cargo and mail.

3. The possibility of flights between the Falkland Islands and third countries was welcomed with the option, from 16 October 1999, of making stops in mainland Argentina.”

” In the light of the shared commitment to the maintenance and conservation of fish stocks in the South Atlantic, existing levels of co-operation between the United Kingdom and Argentina will be enhanced. In this context officials will meet shortly to consider the question of the relative stability of fish stocks, poaching, and other questions related to it and to recommend coordinated programmes of practical measures with the objective of putting them in place before 9 October 1999.”

The air arrangements lasted only 4 years before Argentina’s President, Nestor Kirchner, decided to start to dismantle the efforts made by his predecessor, and withdraw from the agreements. In November, 2003, Argentina announced a ban on Charter flights to the Falklands crossing its air-space and demanded that negotiations take place with a view to establishing direct flights between Buenos Aires and The British archipelago.

Britain’s response was brief; “The Falkland Islands Government is wholly opposed to any scheduled flights originating in Argentina or operated by Argentine carriers. The concern would be, based on past experience, that the Argentines could not be trusted not to heavily subsidise the flight, to such an extent that it made the LAN Chile flight no longer commercial and caused its withdrawal, following which we would have commercial scheduled flights only through Argentina. This of course is reminiscent of the situation in the 1970’s and is unacceptable.”

Fishing co-operation lasted a little longer, till 2005 when the Falkland Islands Government, in response to Argentina’s obstructive attitude towards fishing vessels taking up a licence issued by the FIG, announced a 25 year licence scheme. In December that year, Argentina added a proviso for further South Atlantic Fisheries Commission talks; insisting that sovereignty also be discussed. No meetings have taken place since then to the detriment of fish stocks for both sides.

And now, in 2012, Kirchner’s widow, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is demanding direct air access from Buenos Aires to the Islands, and renewed negotiations over the 1999 fisheries agreement. According to Argentina’s version, their withdrawal from the agreements were due to actions taken by Britain. The Falkland Islands Government see the matter rather differently.

History has a knack of repeating itself where the Falkland Islands are concerned, but there is little prospect of any bi-lateral talks between Britain and Argentina. If Cristina Fernandez wants to talk, her only realistic prospect is to recognise the FIG and ask them to sit down at the negotiating table, without pre-conditions.


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