Falklands (Malvinas) and Sovereignty


Once again, the Falklands on the news. And once again, Argentina’s government only rejecting the Falkland islanders’ opinion, the British government official speech or, if convenient, the international society and legal order. The British government, sometimes proactive, sometimes reactive. Proactive in inviting the Falkland islanders to ANY negotiations; reactive, to any declaration coming from the Argentinean government.


This time, it is the Labour leader, Mr Jeremy Corbyn, who surprisingly “called for a “sensible dialogue” with Argentina over the British-controlled Falkland Islands.”
Many voices have been heard in less than a week. The following paragraph sums them up:
“On the one hand, he said that we should enter into reasonable discussions with Argentina about their future. On the other, he said that the Falkland Islanders have got a right to stay there, and have a right to decide on their own future. Taken individually, these look perfectly reasonable propositions. But Mr Corbyn clearly has no notion of how irreconcilable these two concepts are when put together.”

Consequently, in what may appear to be a pure syllogism in logic, the general opinion of what Mr Corbyn suggested may sketched as follows:
PREMISE A: The UK should enter into reasonable discussions with Argentina over the Falklands.
PREMISE B: The Falkland islanders have the right to stay there and to decide their future.
PREMISE C: Premise A and premise B are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive.
CONCLUSION: There is no possible solution to the Falklands/Malvinas sovereignty enigma. Therein, Mr Jeremy Corbyn is wrong.
I disagree. Without supporting any political party, I have to say Mr Corbyn only states something that in legal theory, political theory, political sciences, law is both possible and achievable. For the ones that follow my writings, they know I have been working on the Falklands/Malvinas case for more than a decade. In fact, several of the posts published through this blog demonstrate the point (let alone academic journal articles and other academic contributions, participations, and discussions in seminars, congresses, conferences around the globe).
The conflict, and more specifically the Falklands/Malvinas sovereignty conflict, has not been solved yet, both factually and legally. The reader may agree or disagree using a value judgment. But a value judgment cannot disagree with facts and law. Things are as they are regardless of what we think of them or how we value them.
Argentina, the United Kingdom and the Falkland islands need to compromise if they want to put a peaceful and definitive end to the dispute. What is to compromise? Broadly speaking, to compromise means to have an agreement between/amongst different parties in relation to something they are all claiming by accepting others’ claims (or part of them). It implies dialogue, and dialogue implies mutual respect, tolerance or toleration.
True. Someone may argue that sovereignty implies an exclusive right. For a classical definition of sovereignty:
“[Sovereignty is] a Supreme authority in a [S]tate. In any [S]tate sovereignty is vested in the institution, person, or body having the ultimate authority to impose law on everyone else in the [S]tate and the power to alter any pre-existing law. […] In international law, it is an essential aspect of sovereignty that all [S]tates should have supreme control over their internal affairs […]”
Martin, E. A. and Law, J., ed. 2006. A Dictionary of Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Evidently, there are many other definitions of sovereignty that can be quoted. Moreover, there are indeed many conceptual issues we may consider when referring to State sovereignty. I will mention some of them below. The aim here is solely to make evident how a concept that is at first thought to be absolute presents several characteristics that show something different. Some of these conceptual issues include:
·               Confusion between supreme and unlimited or absolute authority and how different sorts of limits—e.g. internal, international, religious—relate to the concept of sovereignty.
·               Whether sovereignty is a form of authority or power or both.
·               The related distinction between de jure and de facto sovereignty.
·               Whether sovereignty is a feature of an office (or institution) or of a person or body of persons. Linked to this, the difference between sovereignty as something possessed by a State (e.g. the United States, Argentina) and sovereignty as something that may or may not be possessed by an institution within a State (e.g. Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, the absence of a single sovereign institution within the United States).
·               What it is for a State to be ‘internally’ and ‘externally’ sovereign.
·               The notion of ‘popular’ sovereignty.
·               Whether we can think of sovereignty as something possessed within a limited jurisdiction (e.g. ‘I have authority over matter X but not over matters Y and Z, but my authority over X is final and complete, so I am sovereign over X’) or whether sovereignty must entail a notion of unlimited jurisdiction.

Briefly put, sovereignty and tolerance may not be conceptually close. As sovereignty implies absolute imperium or supreme authority over a given territory and its population (sovereign State), it may have an antithetical relationship with tolerance. However, the fact that sovereignty can –and it does- have constraints refutes that postulate. The question here is what it is understood by a tolerant behaviour amongst sovereign States.
A sovereign State is not tolerant if it does not respect its peers –i.e. if it does not respect others’ sovereignty. Does Argentina respect the United Kingdom in the case of the Falklands and viceversa? In what specifically concerns to sovereignty conflicts, every involved sovereign State objects or disapproves its opponent claims over the third territory resulting in a zero sum game for all the involved agents. By adding toleration to the equation, these sovereign States would at least secure its reciprocal respect as international peers and, possibly, the mutual acknowledgement as interested agents in relation to the third territory. How far can this special kind of international toleration be extended? The answer to this question is crucial because depending on its outcome, toleration may imply respect of the status quo in sovereignty conflicts or include behaviours to move towards a viable solution.
At first glance, toleration seems to be usually understood as implying negative obligations –in the form of not to do, not to interfere with someone else. Similarly, at international level, the principle of non-interference is core to international relationships.
Both Argentina and the United Kingdom can act in relation to the Falklands/Malvinas, they know about their existence and that of their competitor, and they refrain from fully putting their claimed rights into action. There is indeed a certain degree of toleration between Argentina and the United Kingdom. In fact, the main –only?- problem between them is the dispute about the sovereignty over the Falklands. Can an umbrella of toleration be the answer? That seems what Mr Corbyn suggests.
A first –and mature- step in order to move forward is that both the governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom accept their competitor in the conflict as well as the Falkland islanders. With this blog, we have already seen why the Falkland islanders should be included in ANY negotiations and have a say. It is time now to put a final stop, leave childish and one-sided, selfish arguments behind, and move towards a final, peaceful, and definitive solutions.
Mine, as any individual interested in international security and peace has been and is very clear: Egalitarian Shared Sovereignty that includes all parties, that is Argentina, the UK, and the Falklands/Malvinas islanders.

Some of my previous posts about Falklands/Malvinas and sovereignty:

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