'Entirely unacceptable': EU backs down in diplomatic row after calling Falkland Islands by Argentine name

20 July 2023, 12:31 | Updated: 20 July 2023, 12:57

The EU has provoked ire in London over its text with Argentina
The EU has provoked ire in London over its text with Argentina. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The European Union has backed down in a row with the UK after the bloc used the Argentine name for the Falkland Islands.

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The EU provoked fury in London after it signed a deal with Argentina, referring to the Falkland Islands as "Islas Malvinas".

Buenos Aires boasted of the move as being a "diplomatic triumph" and said it hoped to expand talks with the bloc on the "question" of the archipelago.

The Foreign Office strongly opposed any reference to the islands with Argentina's preferred name.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak's spokesperson said it would be "entirely unacceptable for the EU to question the Falkland Islanders' right to decide their own future".

"To be clear, the Falkland Islands are British, that was the choice of the islanders themselves," the spokesperson said.

"The EU has rightly now clarified that their position on the Falklands has not changed after their regrettable choice of words.

"And just as a reminder, in the 2013 referendum, 99.8% of islanders voted to be part of the UK family. It's a position supported by international law and the UN Charter which is binding on all UN members.

"And we will continue to defend the Falklands' right to self-determination in all international forums and have called on the EU to respect the democratic rights of the Falkland Islands."

He added: "The concern is any suggestion that EU states would recognise Argentina's claims on the Falklands, which they have now clarified is incorrect."

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Getty

The issue is extraordinarily sensitive for both sides given the war fought over the Falklands in 1982.

Britain lost 255 servicemen retaking the south Atlantic territory after Argentina's military junta invaded.

Although the UK decisively won the fight and ensured the Falklands' status as an overseas territory, the issue has never gone away for Buenos Aires.

Securing the use of the phrase "Islas Malvinas" in an agreement with the EU will only embolden its hopes of absorbing the islands.

Read More: EU provokes fury as it agrees statement with Argentina that calls Falkland Islands 'Islas Malvinas'

Argentina continues to claim the Falklands
Argentina continues to claim the Falklands. Picture: Alamy

The wording came in a joint declaration between the EU and Celac, a bloc of 33 countries in Latin America.

It used both names to refer to the Falklands in the text, which said: "Regarding the question of sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands, the European Union took note of Celac’s historical position based on the importance of dialogue and respect for international law in the peaceful solution of disputes."

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That came despite Britain warning the EU that Argentina would try to use the EU-Latin America summit to advance their claims. Had it been a member, it could have vetoed the text.

Argentina's president Alberto Fernandez tweeted: "We concluded the summit with great news: the European Union and Celac adopted a motion on the Malvinas Question.

"Our sovereignty claim, by peaceful means and through dialogue, remains intact."

Argentina and supporters of its claim refer to the "Malvinas"
Argentina and supporters of its claim refer to the "Malvinas". Picture: Alamy

Foreign minister Santiago Cafiero said: "Off the back of this declaration the Argentine government hopes to further expand dialogue with the EU regarding the question of the Malvinas Islands.

"This joint declaration constitutes a further call from the international community for the UK to agree to meet its obligation to resume sovereignty negotiations with Argentina."

The Argentinian delegation to the EU told their country's news agency "it is the first time in a long time that the European Union talks about 'Malvinas'... That is not little, it is a lot".

However, the a spokesperson for the EU clarified that member states "have not changed their views and positions" on the islands and the bloc "is not in a situation to express any position on the Falklands/Islas Malvinas".

An EU insider said of the UK: "They are upset by the use of the word Malvinas. If they were in the EU perhaps they would have pushed back against it."

They added that Argentina had "spun it in a certain way".

The Falklands remain disputed
The Falklands remain disputed. Picture: Alamy

A government source said: "The Argentine government can lobby whoever they wish but it doesn't change the fact that the Falkland Islands are British.

"That is the clear will of the Falkland Islanders. Ten years ago, 99.8 per cent of Falkland Islanders who voted said they wanted to stay a part of the UK family.

"Our commitment to that decision is unwavering and will continue to be so."

In 2013, the Falklands voted overwhelmingly to remain an overseas territory of the UK, with 99.8% supporting the status quo.

The agreement between Celac and the EU has been signed off between all countries except Nicaragua, which had concerns over language that criticised Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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