Argentine Warning on Second Flight Proposal - 31 January 2017
An Argentine Congressional delegation, visiting the UK under Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) auspices, reportedly warned FCO Minister, Sir Alan Duncan, that any proposal to set up a second scheduled flight between S. America and the Falkland Islands would have to be approved by Congress before it could be implemented. Refusing to consider applications from Argentine air carriers would make that approval more difficult to achieve.
Sir Alan Duncan, FCO Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, hosted a meeting on 31 January 2017 with an Argentine Congressional delegation, led by Senate Leader, Federico Pinedo, as part of wider tour of the UK under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The Argentine delegation reiterated Argentina's claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands but stressed that that they wanted to build confidence with both the UK and the Falkland Islanders so that, in the future, they could discuss the issue of sovereignty in good faith. But they underlined that all matters arising out of the Joint Communique agreed in September 2016 which related to the Falkland Islands would have to be approved by Congress before they could be implemented. This would apply to the proposal for a second scheduled flight as well as matters relating to fisheries and oil development and lifting trade restrictions with the Falkland Islands. They were concerned that the Falkland Islanders had made direct contact only with third countries. Excluding Argentine air carriers from the tender process would make agreement difficult.
Confidence-building has been the watchword of Argentine Government policy under President Macri but it still hides the aim of securing full sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, which his administration repeats is an inalienable right of the Argentine people under their Constitution. But there is growing popular opposition to the concept in Argentina, with people increasingly speaking out against the perceived removal of the Falklands issue from their government's priorities.
The Argentine Congress has insisted on exercising its authority on matters relating to the Falkland Islands. The Argentine Foreign Minister, Susana Malcorra, was called before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies to account for the signature of the
Joint Communique of September 2016, which some Argentine representatives feared was a treaty or binding understanding rather than a statement to the press - and the Committee chair, Elisa Carrio, has since stressed on several occasions that Congressional authority would have to be obtained for any new developments regarding the Islands.
President Macri does not command a majority in either the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies and is vulnerable to Congressional pressure. He has been criticised in Argentina for operating too much by Presidential decree. It was always understood that some of the issues agreed in September, such as lifting the Argentine sanctions on trade with the Falkland Islands, would require amending legislation, but whether that would be necessary for agreeing a second scheduled flight was less clear. Now Congress has put down a marker even on that.
Interestingly, some of the Argentine media have implied that the UK Government is putting pressure on the Falkland Islanders to accept a second flight with a stopover in Argentina. This is just plain wrong. It has been an FIG initiative and MLAs have made it clear that they have not been put under any pressure by the UK Government. There is some opposition in the Falkland Islands to a second flight putting down in Argentina (as with the current weekly LATAM flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, which transits through Rio Gallegos in Argentina once a month each way). MLAs have given reassurances that, if a possible understanding were to be reached with Argentina, they would consult widely with the public before any final decision was made. The decision would be "ours and ours alone".
The Argentine delegation comprised three Senators - Federico Pinedo, Lucila Crexell and Rodolfo Urtubey - and three Deputies - Margarita Stolbizer, Eduardo Anadeo and Alejandro Grandinetti. Meetings in London were held with UK parliamentarians, with City of London representatives, and with Greg Hands, Minister of State in the Department for International Trade. Key issues other than the Falklands included trade, inward investment, combatting corruption, and helping to promote Argentina's return to OECD membership. Argentina is keen for the UK to take part in the modernisation of their railways and, more generally, in attracting inward investment from the UK. After London, the delegation visited Scotland (Edinburgh and Glasgow).